Nuclear Science:

Questions Associated With Completing WNP-1 as a Defense Materials Production Reactor

RCED-88-221: Published: Sep 21, 1988. Publicly Released: Sep 21, 1988.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed safety, cost, scheduling, and legal issues associated with the Department of Energy's (DOE) proposed acquisition and completion of Washington Nuclear Plant 1 (WNP-1), a partially completed commercial nuclear power plant, to serve as a nuclear weapons materials production facility.

GAO found that: (1) the owners of WNP-1 halted construction due to financial problems and decreased electrical power needs; (2) the plant had no major safety, technical, or other barriers to preclude its consideration as an option for a nuclear weapons materials reactor; (3) an August 1986 DOE study concluded that DOE could modify the reactor for defense production purposes, possibly at a lower initial cost and shorter schedule; (4) DOE has not yet resolved several safety-related concerns regarding the use of pressurized light-water reactors, decay-heat removal, station blackout, production capacity, and incomplete probabilistic risk assessment; (5) issues with possible effects on plant completion costs and schedule included design changes, technical issues involving tritium production, establishment of safety standards, legal questions involving acquisition cost, and policy issues; (6) completion of the plant would not violate federal law; and (7) plant condemnation would not constitute default or make bonds immediately due and payable.

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