Nuclear Health and Safety:

Further Improvement Needed in the Hanford Tank Farm Maintenance Program

RCED-95-29: Published: Nov 8, 1994. Publicly Released: Dec 19, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) tank farm maintenance program at its Hanford site, focusing on: (1) DOE progress in strengthening the maintenance program; and (2) opportunities for further improvement.

GAO found that: (1) the Hanford management and operations contractor has implemented a new approach for coordinating maintenance work on the tank farms; (2) although the contractor has reduced the number of uncompleted maintenance projects by about 20 percent, the remaining large backlog of uncompleted projects endangers its ability to complete needed maintenance in a timely manner; (3) radioactive wastes at the tank farms make timely maintenance critical; and (4) the contractor could improve its tank farm maintenance program by reducing the time spent in preparing and closing out maintenance projects, developing benchmarks for measuring performance, and gathering and analyzing more information on how maintenance projects are carried out.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE is evaluating its tank farms in comparison with other facilities. Hanford reports that, as a result of its recent efforts, its maintenance process now has timeframes equivalent to other sites.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct the Manager of the Richland Field Office to streamline the processes for approving corrective maintenance plans and closing out completed maintenance work by adopting procedures used at other DOE sites and already tested in experiments at Hanford.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE has developed and adopted standards consistent with the recommendations. DOE now can better estimate the time required to complete maintenance actions. The time performance data can be used to estimate costs but has not been used for this purpose.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct the Manager of the Richland Field Office to develop benchmarks and, where appropriate, engineered performance standards for tank farm maintenance and more complete data on the time required for, and the cost of, conducting each maintenance project. DOE should then use this information to adjust the benchmarks and standards and to identify additional opportunities to improve tank farm maintenance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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