Nuclear Safety:

Status of Reactor Restart Efforts and Safety Culture Changes

RCED-91-95: Published: Mar 13, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 18, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) activities to restart three nuclear reactors at its Savannah River, South Carolina, site, focusing on: (1) delays in the restart schedule; (2) factors causing the delays; and (3) safety oversight changes and safety culture concerns.

GAO found that: (1) DOE announced on February 4, 1991 that it planned to restart the K-reactor in the summer of 1991 and the L-reactor in early 1992; (2) DOE also announced that it planned to terminate the P-reactor as an operational reactor and maintain it in a cold standby status; (3) various factors causing delays in meeting the K-reactor's originally proposed September 1990 restart date included the late development of the startup test program, delays in completing originally scheduled work, new maintenance and restart requirements, and environmental and fire protection issues; (4) DOE and other interested organizations took such actions to increase attention to safety as reorganizations addressing safety management and oversight issues and extensive independent external oversight of DOE nuclear safety activities; (5) although DOE made safety oversight changes, both DOE and its contractor officials recognized that improving the underlying safety attitude was a long-term effort that may not be fully completed before restart; and (6) DOE estimated that it would spend $3.2 billion on reactor restart and operations between fiscal years 1989 and 1993.