Nuclear Cleanup:

Progress Made at Rocky Flats, but Closure by 2006 Is Unlikely, and Costs May Increase

GAO-01-284: Published: Feb 28, 2001. Publicly Released: Feb 28, 2001.

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Gary L. Jones
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GAO reviewed several aspects of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Rocky Flats Environmental Technology site cleanup and closure plan. Specifically, GAO reviewed (1) the status and cost of the Rocky Flats closure project, (2) the likelihood that the site will be closed by 2006, and (3) the management actions needed, if any, to improve the likelihood of the project's success. GAO found that in the more than five years that it has been the major contractor at the Rocky Flats site, Kaiser-Hill has made significant progress toward cleaning up the site, but the majority of the work--and the most complicated--remains to be done. Because of the project's difficulty, DOE entered into a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract with Kaiser-Hill. If completed on time, the project will cost about $7.5 billion from the signing of the first cleanup contract with Kaiser-Hill in July 1995 through the 2006 closure date, and about $1.4 billion more thereafter, for such activities as site monitoring and maintenance and for contractor employees' retirement benefits. These overall costs will increase if additional work is required or the 2006 target date is not achieved. Kaiser-Hill and DOE are unlikely to meet the December 2006 target closure date. A number of significant and complex challenges must be overcome first. Kaiser-Hill and DOE are developing their respective plans for managing the closure project, but DOE needs to take additional steps to effectively implement its plan.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Based on this recommendation, DOE developed a detailed project implementation and management plan which specifically delineates the responsibilities, authorities, and control processes that will be used to implement and manage the project. DOE also established a 30-day timeframe to resolve resource issues between DOE organizations, after which the issues would be elevated to DOE's Chief Operating Officer for resolution.

    Recommendation: To improve the chance of achieving the target closure date and cost, and to minimize schedule extensions and cost increases associated with any closure delays, the Secretary of Energy should develop an implementing strategy for DOE's plan at Rocky Flats that (1) clarifies the authority and responsibility for reconciling competing demands for DOE's resources needed to support Rocky Flats' closure and (2) specifies a process by which these differences between DOE organizations are identified and resolved within specified time frames.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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