Environmental Problems at the Department of Energy's Nuclear Weapons Complex

T-RCED-89-12: Published: Feb 24, 1989. Publicly Released: Feb 24, 1989.

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GAO discussed the environmental issues facing the Department of Energy (DOE) in cleaning up its nuclear weapons complex. GAO found that: (1) DOE needed to clean up existing contamination in soil and groundwater and bring its facilities' operations into full compliance with environmental laws; (2) the estimated costs for cleaning up existing contamination would total between $35 billion and $65 billion; (3) DOE would need new technologies and specialized equipment and techniques to clean up some sites and protect workers involved in the cleanup; (4) some areas could be irreversibly contaminated and might require long-term institutional care; and (5) to bring DOE into full compliance would cost an additional $3 billion to $9 billion. In addition, GAO found that: (1) although a recent DOE modernization plan called for additional spending of $81 billion over the next 21 years, it did not have a detailed plan for resolving environmental problems; (2) recently proposed legislation to establish a national commission on DOE environmental remediation activities could assist DOE in developing long-range plans; (3) $1.1 billion of the $9.4-billion DOE budget request was to correct environmental problems and represented a 57-percent increase over 1989 funding levels; and (4) DOE was still studying the extent of contamination. GAO believes that establishment of a national commission on DOE environmental remediation activities would help clarify cleanup issues and help form a comprehensive approach to addressing DOE environmental problems.

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