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Highlights

In 2001, when GAO reported on the cleanup of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Rocky Flats site, a former nuclear weapons production facility, the cleanup was behind schedule and over cost. In October 2005, the contractor declared that it had completed the cleanup much earlier and at less cost than DOE and the contractor had anticipated 5 years earlier. GAO was asked to determine the (1) factors that contributed to the cleanup's early completion, (2) remaining work and total costs, (3) measures to assess whether the cleanup achieved a level of protection of public health and environment consistent with the cleanup agreement, and (4) lessons the Rocky Flats cleanup may offer for other DOE cleanup projects.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Energy 1. To improve DOE's oversight of cleanup activities, its conduct of cleanup verification activities, and its monitoring of lessons learned at DOE cleanup sites, the Secretary of Energy should ensure that DOE independently assesses contractors' controls over data quality.
Closed - Implemented
DOE has taken actions to implement this recommendation. DOE conducted a gap analysis to uncover areas where its oversight contractors' controls over data quality might be insufficient. The results of this analysis led to revisions of DOE's policy for oversight as well as its implementing order. The revised policy and implementing order highlight requirements for DOE to review the contractor data quality assurance systems as well as to assess their effectiveness.
Department of Energy 2. To improve DOE's oversight of cleanup activities, its conduct of cleanup verification activities, and its monitoring of lessons learned at DOE cleanup sites, the Secretary of Energy should clarify guidance on whether and how to conduct cleanup verification activities.
Closed - Implemented
DOE took two actions to address this recommendation. First, DOE issued a memo in 2006 clarifying its requirements for independent verification of cleanups and the radiological release of property. Second, DOE prepared a report in 2008 summarizing the lessons learned from independent verification activities across DOE.
Department of Energy 3. To improve DOE's oversight of cleanup activities, its conduct of cleanup verification activities, and its monitoring of lessons learned at DOE cleanup sites, the Secretary of Energy should assess the costs and benefits of developing a method to track the lessons learned from cleanup activities at DOE sites across the nation, including methods for determining whether lessons are being applied at applicable locations.
Closed - Implemented
DOE took two actions to address this recommendation. First, DOE published a report on the lessons learned from the Rocky Flats cleanup and was made available to staff in DOE?s Office of Environmental Management (EM) operations, so that approaches outlined in the report could potentially be used at other sites. Second, DOE issued a policy in October 2008 stating that EM is committed to the implementation of the DOE Operating Experience Program (OEP) at EM sites, a program that exists to ensure systematic identification, collection, screening, analysis, evaluation, dissemination, and use of lessons learned, among other things. The October 2008 policy also established oversight mechanisms for providing assurance that lessons learned were tracked by establishing responsibilities and methods for line oversight to implement the DOE OEP across EM.

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