The SP-100 Nuclear Reactor Program:

Should It Be Continued?

T-NSIAD-92-15: Published: Mar 12, 1992. Publicly Released: Mar 12, 1992.

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GAO discussed the SP-100 Space Nuclear Reactor Program, established to develop technology for space reactor power systems for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). GAO noted that: (1) since its inception in fiscal year (FY) 1983 the Department of Energy (DOE), NASA, and DOD have jointly invested over $420 million in the SP-100 Program; (2) phase I of the SP-100 program cost approximately $51 million and took place from 1983 to 1985, the estimate for phase II has more than tripled and the scheduled completion has been extended by 13 years, and DOE estimates that phase III may cost between $250 million and $500 million; (3) funding shortfalls have also contributed to the cost increases and schedule delays, ranging from a low of $10 million in FY 1986 to a high of $84 million in FY 1989; (4) funding shortfalls resulted because agencies did not contribute the amounts identified in the memorandum of agreement that identified agency funding level commitments, and Congress made adjustments to the DOE budget request; (5) although DOD and NASA have identified potential missions in which the application of SP-100 technology would offer advantages over other existing space power alternatives, no specific missions have been approved, and approval is unlikely until technical and economic risks are minimized; and (6) DOD recently withdrew its funding support for the SP-100 Program because of continual program cost increases and schedule delays, mission changes, and its belief that another nuclear reactor technology would more cost-effectively and timely meet its needs.

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