Nuclear Waste:

Changes Needed in DOE User-Fee Assessments

T-RCED-91-52: Published: May 8, 1991. Publicly Released: May 8, 1991.

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GAO discussed the Department of Energy's (DOE) procedures for annually assessing the adequacy of the fee that utilities pay for disposal of spent nuclear fuel. GAO noted that: (1) the nuclear waste program was susceptible to future budget shortfalls; (2) without a fee increase, the civilian waste nuclear program might be underfunded by at least $2.4 billion; (3) inflation was the major contributing factor to program cost increases; (4) indexing the disposal fee to the inflation rate would protect the Nuclear Waste Fund from the effects of inflation; (5) inflation indexing would permit DOE to concentrate its fee assessments on estimated program costs that were unrelated to inflation and revenue uncertainties; (6) a fee increase was not necessary to recover program costs with one repository, but for two repositories the current fee would result in a Fund program deficit of $23 billion; and (7) DOE did not pay its share of program costs. GAO also noted that: (1) DOE had not yet begun investigating the Yucca Mountain, Nevada, repository site; (2) technical and management problems resulted in DOE spending $12 million in 1989 and 1990 to develop a new drilling technology and a facility for managing core samples obtained during the site investigation; (3) DOE spent over $36 million to design the exploratory shaft facility in 1988 and 1989, but poor design and construction methods resulted in DOE selecting a new design and construction method; and (4) DOE spent about $122 million on general project management.

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