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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) implementation of recommendations GAO made regarding DOE assessments of whether nuclear power plant operation fees cover the costs of the civilian nuclear waste disposal program.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
Congress should amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to require the Secretary of Energy to automatically adjust the nuclear waste disposal fee that utilities pay to the Nuclear Waste Fund on the basis of the annual rate of inflation.
Closed - Implemented
The House-passed version of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 would have required DOE to automatically adjust the disposal fee on the basis of the annual rate of inflation, however, this provision was not retained in the final legislation agreed to and passed by both houses of Congress.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Energy 1. To help ensure that DOE can dispose of its highly radioactive waste in accordance with its current schedule, the Secretary of Energy, in cooperation with the Director, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), should: (1) develop a payment plan to pay DOE debt to the Nuclear Waste Fund by 2015 or sooner; and (2) request annual appropriations from Congress in accordance with such a plan.
Closed - Implemented
On September 1, 1998, DOE's environmental management and radioactive waste disposal organizations completed a memorandum of agreement for acceptance of DOE's highly radioactive waste. Among other things, the memorandum requires DOE to pay its fair share of total disposal costs and sets out procedures for calculating DOE's fair share. DOE's annual budget requests will include an appropriate amount of funds for its share of waste disposal costs and Defense Nuclear Waste Disposal appropriations received are to be credited towards DOE's outstanding disposal obligation balance. Finally, before physical acceptance of DOE's highly radioactive wastes may begin, DOE's appropriations must have satisfied all prior outstanding financial obligations for the disposal of DOE's wastes. Thereafter, if DOE's appropriation for disposal of its highly radioactive wastes is less than the amount calculated to be appropriate, the acceptance rate for DOE's wastes will be similarly reduced.
Department of Energy 2. The Secretary of Energy should ensure that the financial statements of the Nuclear Waste Fund fully disclose the circumstances surrounding any uncertainties regarding the collectibility of the one-time fees owed by utilities, the potential impact on the fund resulting from any receivables that may be uncollectible, and any actions that DOE plans to take to deal with this matter.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOE did not agree with this recommendation on the basis that (1) all affected utilities had recorded their liabilities to the Nuclear Waste Fund in their own financial statements and (2) DOE had no basis for booking an allowance for any receivable or potentially uncollectible.

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