GAO's Views on DOE's New Production Reactor Selection Process

T-RCED-89-46: Published: May 24, 1989. Publicly Released: May 24, 1989.

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GAO discussed the Department of Energy's (DOE) new production reactor selection process. GAO found that: (1) DOE recommended a two-reactor strategy that will provide tritium for national defense purposes in 12.5 years, but it did not provide Congress with information concerning the total time necessary to construct and obtain tritium from the two suggested reactors or the actions required to ensure reliability for at least 10 years; (2) some cost estimates were inaccurate because DOE used unrealistic assumptions; (3) the DOE safety review process was uncertain; and (4) DOE did not provide an in-depth or realistic analysis of schedule, costs, and benefits associated with its acquisition strategy. GAO believes that: (1) future operation of the reactors depends on resolving numerous technical and resource problems; (2) DOE must analyze the condition and remaining usefulness of each reactor; and (3) environmental challenges and construction risks may increase the schedules for new production reactors.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE issued a draft environmental impact statement in April 1991. The final environmental impact statement was released in late 1991 after making a decision on new production reactors.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should, prior to reaching a final decision on the new production reactors, now scheduled for late 1991, provide Congress with an in-depth analysis of schedule, costs, and benefits of each option.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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