Enormous Modernization and Cleanup Problems in the Nuclear Weapons Complex

T-RCED-89-11: Published: Feb 23, 1989. Publicly Released: Feb 23, 1989.

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GAO discussed the Department of Energy's (DOE) modernization and cleanup plans for its nuclear weapons complex. GAO noted that: (1) the weapons complex posed serious threats to public health and safety, due to its handling of hazardous materials, aging and obsolete facilities, inactive waste sites, and groundwater and soil contamination; (2) estimates of the cost to modernize and clean up the weapons complex ranged as high as $155 billion; (3) the DOE closing of several key nuclear operations due to significant safety and health problems seriously affected the nation's ability to produce nuclear weapons; and (4) DOE did not adequately address priorities for cleanup and modernization efforts covered in its fiscal year 1990 budget request. GAO also noted that the 2010 Modernization Plan DOE submitted for facility upgrade and cleanup: (1) did not adequately address the cleanup and decontamination of existing facilities; (2) placed modernization on a faster track than environmental cleanup; and (3) did not address management changes necessary to acquire the necessary technical expertise, provide strong safety oversight, and establish modernization management policies. GAO believes that: (1) proposed legislation to establish a national commission to review environmental contamination data, the DOE management structure, and technological capabilities could assist DOE in its long-range planning efforts; and (2) DOE can assist Congress in its future deliberations by periodically updating the modernization plan.

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