The Nuclear Weapons Complex--A Declining Capability

PSAD-79-20: Published: Jan 16, 1979. Publicly Released: Jan 16, 1979.

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GAO has completed a survey of the physical condition and technological status of equipment and utility systems at the Department of Energy (DOE) Savannah River Powerstation in South Carolina, the Y-12 nuclear facilty in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the weapons complex in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The purpose was to determine the state of America's weapons complex and evaluate the extent of the physical deterioration and technological obsolescence of equipment at nuclear facilities.

The facilities visited by GAO were generally maintained in a safe operating condition, although funding constraints for construction, capital equipment, and maintenance over the past several years have contributed to the poor physical condition and technological obsolescence that currently exist. Aging facilities, coupled with limited funds for replacement equipment, have resulted in reactor shutdowns and down-time. Facility officials believe that a multiyear, full funding arrangement is needed to restore the facilities to their proper operational level. GAO believes that full funding could also restore important aspects of management, such as facilitating equipment purchases and installation, minimizing construction delays, and providing cost savings when used in conjunction with multiyear contracting. This full funding concept also gives DOE, the Congress, and the public, knowledge of the full dimension and cost of a project when it is first presented for consideration.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: GAO recommended that a 100-percent survey be made of the facilities' physical condition and identify the priority needs according to DOE's goals. Various funding goals should then be analyzed and submitted to the Congress to fully restore the weapons complex and bring the technological status in line with Defense requirements.

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