Nuclear Science:

Fast Flux Test Facility on Standby, Awaiting DOE Decision on Future Missions

RCED-92-121FS: Published: Apr 9, 1992. Publicly Released: May 11, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the: (1) rationale behind the Department of Energy's (DOE) decision to shut down the Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF) at the Hanford Reservation in Washington; and (2) DOE response to proposals to keep FFTF operating.

GAO found that: (1) because DOE was not been able to find a mission to pay nearly $90 million in FFTF annual operating costs, it planned to close FFTF in April 1992; (2) in order to give DOE more time to consider FFTF for possible future DOE missions, FFTF was put on nonoperating standby status, effective in April 1992; (3) DOE has examined and rejected a number of proposals for domestic and international utilization of FFTF because those proposals produced too little annual income to support FFTF, were too costly to initiate, were too low-priority for scarce funds, and were more viable at other DOE facilities; (4) DOE has been considering a proposal for FFTF to produce plutonium-238, a power source for electricity used during space missions, and expects to make its decision on production by the fall of 1992; (5) DOE has been considering FFTF as a possible option for the production of tritium, but believes that tritium might occupy all of FFTF and exclude other missions; and (6) it will cost DOE about $50 million to $60 million to keep FFTF on a nonoperating standby status, and DOE estimates that FFTF will not be restarted until at least 1996, since there is a sufficient inventory of plutonium and tritium to last the next several years.

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