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Highlights

The Department of Energy's (DOE) Hanford Site in Washington State stores 56 million gallons of untreated radioactive and hazardous wastes resulting from decades of nuclear weapons production. DOE is constructing facilities at the site to treat these wastes before permanent disposal. As part of meeting health, safety, and other standards, work at the site has sometimes been suspended to address safety or construction quality issues. This report discusses (1) work stoppages from January 2000 through December 2008 and what is known about them, (2) the types of costs associated with work stoppages and who paid for them, and (3) whether more effective regulation or oversight could have prevented the work stoppages. GAO interviewed knowledgeable DOE and contractor officials about these events. When documentation was available, GAO obtained DOE and contractor accident and safety incident reports, internal DOE and independent external evaluations, and costs.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Energy To provide a more thorough and consistent understanding of the potential effect of work stoppages on project costs, the Secretary of Energy should establish criteria for when DOE should direct contractors to track and report to DOE the reasons for and costs associated with work stoppages, ensuring that these criteria fully recognize the importance of worker and nuclear safety.
Closed - Implemented
DOE has updated its Financial Management Handbook to include provisions in Chapter 15: Cost Accounting (March 2013) to address this recommendation. Specifically, Chapter 15 directs contractors to track and report to DOE the reasons for costs associated with work stoppages {paragraph 10.a.2,3, and 4} and establishes criteria under which work stoppages should be tracked. Specifically, events that result in delays of work exceeding two consecutive business days or incur costs exceeding $100,000 must be tracked. The following reasons for delays must be reported: those that result from disasters, disruptions caused by security and accident investigations, stoppages resulting from violations of nuclear safety requirements, and shutdowns directed by officials involving emergencies or safety issues. {paragraph 10.b}
Department of Energy To provide a more thorough and consistent understanding of the potential effect of work stoppages on project costs, the Secretary of Energy should specify the types of costs to be tracked.
Closed - Implemented
DOE has updated its Financial Management Handbook to include provisions in Chapter 15: Cost Accounting (March 2013) to address this recommendation. Specifically, DOE requires that contractors maintain internal procedures and accounting mechanisms to separately record the costs associated with a work stoppage and that all costs associated with the following types of activities resulting from a work stoppage be accounted for: maintaining a facility in a stand down mode; shutting down the facility or activity; restarting a facility or activity; transitioning facilities and personnel to other approved work; cleanup, investigative, and remediation activities; and non productive labor resulting from idleness or no activity taking place. {paragraph 10.a.2 and 3}

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