Nuclear Waste:

Quality Assurance Auditors Need Access to Employee Records

RCED-91-7: Published: Jan 18, 1991. Publicly Released: Feb 19, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) efforts to identify and resolve problems stemming from the Privacy Act of 1974's restrictions on maintenance and disclosure of personnel information, focusing on the act's effect on the DOE quality assurance program for contractor personnel involved in the Yucca Mountain, Nevada, nuclear waste repository project.

GAO found that: (1) under the quality assurance program, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission required DOE to document that DOE and contractor employees were properly qualified and trained to perform repository-related work; (2) DOE did not address the act's restrictions until almost 2 years after it anticipated the need to establish a new system of records that covered both DOE and contractor employees and that permitted quality assurance auditors to have access to the records; (3) the delay in resolving the issue was partially due to confusion over the act's applicability to contractor employees; (4) the delay in addressing the restrictions resulted in a temporary lack of access to records so that quality assurance auditors could verify training and qualification requirements for contractor employees; and (5) before new site characterization work can begin, DOE must ensure quality assurance auditors' and observers' unrestricted access to training and qualification records of DOE and contractor employees.

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