Decommissioning Retired Nuclear Reactors at Hanford Reservation

RCED-83-104: Published: Apr 15, 1983. Publicly Released: Apr 15, 1983.

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GAO reported on its concerns about the Department of Energy's (DOE) ongoing effort to develop a strategy for decommissioning eight retired plutonium production reactors at its Hanford Reservation.

GAO is concerned that DOE is not considering two issues which are important to selecting the most appropriate and least costly decommissioning strategy. GAO believes that DOE needs to decide: (1) the long-term future of the Hanford Reservation; and (2) whether Hanford is suitable as a permanent disposal site for some of the radioactive wastes which will be produced if one or more of the reactors are dismantled. In a prior report, GAO recommended that DOE postpone the dismantling of a reactor until such decisions had been reached. GAO recognizes that some of the retired reactors may have deteriorated to the point where DOE needs to select and implement a decommissioning strategy. If DOE intends to eventually permit access to the facility or to release it to general public use, then it appears appropriate for DOE to dismantle the retired reactors and clean up the reactor sites. However, if DOE intends that the facility remain in long-term Federal control, a less costly decommissioning strategy may be more appropriate. If it is not an acceptable site, DOE might incur unnecessary costs of temporary waste storage, followed by relocation. Delay in assessing the facility's suitability as a permanent disposal site increases the likelihood of more costly storage approaches.

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