Nuclear Waste:

Comprehensive Review of the Disposal Program Is Needed

RCED-94-299: Published: Sep 27, 1994. Publicly Released: Sep 27, 1994.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO audited the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, focusing on the need for: (1) a comprehensive independent review of the radioactive waste disposal program; and (2) fundamental policies for program guidance.

GAO found that: (1) the Secretary of Energy has undertaken several initiatives to address problems in the radioactive waste disposal program, including a review of program criticisms, a financial and management evaluation of the repository project, and a public inquiry into the continued storage of waste at nuclear power facilities after January 1998; (2) these initiatives are too narrow in scope and lack sufficient objectivity to provide the thorough program evaluation that is needed; (3) DOE development of a proposed disposal system before the final selection of a repository could cause economic and safety risks when the repository becomes available because the disposal containers may not be suitable to the site; (4) many members of Congress have called for an independent review of the disposal program; (5) an independent non-DOE entity with requisite expertise in public policy and administration should conduct a comprehensive review to help ensure that the program is implemented as efficiently and effectively as possible and provide Congress with the best possible information available for evaluating the program; and (6) the review could be conducted simultaneously with investigation activities at the proposed repository site.

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