GAO's Views on DOE's Modernization Plan for the Weapons Complex

T-RCED-89-5: Published: Jan 25, 1989. Publicly Released: Jan 25, 1989.

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GAO discussed the Department of Energy's (DOE) recently issued plan to modernize its nuclear weapons production complex. GAO found that: (1) while DOE was identifying and characterizing the extent of the problems within its complex, several problems surfaced which forced it to shut down reactors at several plants and halted nuclear weapons material production; (2) DOE implemented a program to address the extent of environmental, health, and safety problems at its major weapons complex facilities; and (3) the inspectors that DOE assigned at its major facilities were instrumental in disclosing significant safety problems. GAO also found that: (1) while the modernization plan showed what facilities would need to meet production needs in 2010, it did not adequately address the cleanup of existing facilities or the decontamination of retired facilities; (2) the total cost estimates ranged from $100 billion to over $155 billion; (3) the true costs could differ greatly from the estimates due to the lack of specific cleanup procedures, facility construction cost overruns, and the cost of building new production reactors; (4) DOE may not have sufficient technical expertise to accomplish all of the required tasks; and (5) DOE did not have all the policies and standards in place to guide the modernization effort. GAO believes that DOE should periodically update the plan to keep Congress and the public informed on the overall direction, priorities, and progress of the modernization efforts.

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