Nuclear Materials:

Removing Plutonium Residues From Rocky Flats Will Be Difficult and Costly

RCED-92-219: Published: Sep 4, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 16, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the backlog of plutonium residues at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, focusing on: (1) the quantity of low-level plutonium residues stored at the plant; and (2) DOE plans for removing the backlog.

GAO found that: (1) as of November 1991, the plant had about 97,000 kilograms of solid residues containing 2,800 kilograms of plutonium, and over 14,000 liters of liquid residues containing 91 kilograms of plutonium; (2) the DOE decision to cease plant operations requires residue removal and plant decontamination; (3) DOE can not remove the residues in their present form because they do not meet shipping and disposal requirements; (4) DOE has been studying three options for removal, but will not make its final decision prior to 1993, although it has developed a preliminary removal plan in response to a compliance order issued by the Colorado Department of Health; (5) the plant's limited capacity to process or prepare the residues for shipment will create substantial additional costs; and (6) DOE is developing a long-term strategy for managing its entire plutonium inventory, is preparing comprehensive cost estimates, and is assessing the availability of waste disposal facilities.

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