Nuclear Weapons Complex:

Status of Restart Issues at the Rocky Flats Plant

RCED-92-176FS: Published: Jun 22, 1992. Publicly Released: Jul 23, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) efforts to resolve environment, safety, and health (ES&H) issues and resume plutonium operations at its Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado.

GAO found that: (1) since the suspension of the Rocky Flats plant in November 1989, the operating contractor has implemented a process to identify and resolve numerous ES&H issues, and to evaluate the risks posed by those issues; (2) the Rocky Flats management office has identified potentially significant ES&H issues that should be addressed before the resumption of plutonium operations; (3) Rocky Flats and the contractor had identified 2,805 ES&H issues as of May 1992, and of those, 1,573 must be resolved before plutonium operations are resumed and 1,185 are long-term issues that are resolvable subsequent to restart; (4) to determine the overall risk that ES&H issues pose to the environment and to public safety and health, the contractor created a team to calculate the risk level associated with an issue by evaluating the potential consequences and the probability of their occurrence; and (5) although DOE has resolved almost 50 percent of the resumption issues and approximately 20 percent of the long-term issues, it plans to resume operations in only 3 major plutonium buildings which account for 666 of the ES&H issues, 406 of which are resumption issues.

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