Nuclear Health and Safety:

Efforts to Strengthen DOE's Health and Epidemiology Programs

RCED-91-57: Published: Feb 5, 1991. Publicly Released: Mar 27, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Energy's (DOE) initiatives to address concerns about its ability to effectively oversee health, environmental, and safety activities related to its nuclear weapons production plants.

GAO found that: (1) DOE did not effectively oversee its health programs, lacked credibility in its health-effects research activities, and did not standardize the collection of pertinent data on the health of its workers; (2) DOE planned to increase its Office of Health staff from 26 to 86 personnel by fiscal year (FY) 1992, but the current shortage of qualified staff could hinder its ability to attract the staff required to perform its duties; (3) DOE plans to establish an advisory committee of non-DOE personnel in early 1991 to oversee its environmental, safety, and health activities; (4) DOE was developing a comprehensive database to consolidate previously collected worker health data and provide for collection of future data; (5) DOE reported that the database would be operational by the end of FY 1992 at an estimated developmental cost of about $3 million; and (6) DOE signed an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to transfer $17 million to HHS in FY 1991 for the management of the ongoing long term health-effects and epidemiology studies and research. GAO believes that DOE consolidation of its occupational health programs: (1) and the transfer of its studies to HHS provides a credible framework for overseeing the health of its workers and nearby communities; and (2) would strengthen its efforts in overseeing management of its health responsibilities.