In 2004, the Department of Energy (DOE) disposed of more than 378,000 cubic meters of low-level radioactive waste (LLRW)--contaminated building rubble, soil, and debris. In 2002, DOE directed its sites to use life-cycle cost analysis to manage LLRW. Life-cycle cost analysis examines the total cost of various options to manage LLRW over its life, including its packaging, treatment, transport, and disposal, to identify the lowest-cost alternative. GAO determined whether (1) DOE sites use life-cycle cost analysis to evaluate LLRW management alternatives and (2) DOE has a strategy for cost-effectively managing LLRW departmentwide, including state actions that may affect this strategy.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Energy||To promote cost-effective LLRW management, the Secretary of Energy should prepare comprehensive guidance on life-cycle cost analysis that, at a minimum, specifies (1) a systematic, consistent method of analyzing all cost elements or of comparing key alternatives within these cost elements to determine the lowest cost; (2) when and under what circumstances sites should prepare cost analyses; (3) relevant DOE orders, manuals, or other reference materials that should be consulted to provide consistent direction on how and when to perform the analysis; and (4) how final LLRW management decisions should be documented to demonstrate that life-cycle cost factors were adequately weighed against noncost factors, such as safety, health, or schedule.|
|Department of Energy||To promote cost-effective LLRW management, the Secretary of Energy should incorporate the revised life-cycle cost guidance into new or existing site contracts or into the departmental orders cited in those contracts.|
|Department of Energy||To promote cost-effective LLRW management, the Secretary of Energy should direct DOE to oversee contractors to ensure that site contractor officials properly use life-cycle cost analyses in evaluating LLRW management alternatives.|
|Department of Energy||To promote cost-effective LLRW management, the Secretary of Energy should actively promote and monitor the development of a timely, national LLRW management strategy that is based on departmentwide data on LLRW needing disposal, and ensure that the implementation of the strategy is fully carried out.|