GAO finds nuclear demo best practices could set new standard for clean energy projects

October 3, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s management of its commercial-scale reactor demonstration projects has “generally been consistent with requirements to address risk,” according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published recently. The GAO found that the DOE has met existing project management requirements, and that the two offices managing the awards—the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) and the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED)—plan to introduce additional project management tools, such as external independent reviews. The GAO recommended that the DOE adopt those plans as institutional best practices for other large energy projects, and the DOE concurred.

DOE’s legal authority to sell depleted uranium uncertain, GAO says

August 1, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
A DUF6 storage cylinder is moved at the Portsmouth DUF6 conversion facility. (Photo: DOE)

The Government Accountability Office is recommending that Congress clarify the Department of Energy’s legal authority to sell depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) left over from uranium enrichment operations at the department’s Portsmouth Site in Ohio and the Paducah Site in Kentucky.

NRC and GAO seem to clash on urgency of “dirty bomb” danger

July 26, 2022, 12:06PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Source: GAO | GAO-22-103441

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission needs to “add security features to its licenses to make it harder for people to use a fraudulent license to purchase radioactive material,” which could then be used to make a “dirty bomb,” according to a Government Accountability Office report exclusively obtained by NBC News. The recent report was publicly released on the GAO website.

A dirty bomb, also known as a radiological dispersal device, is a bomb made with conventional explosives to spread illicitly obtained radioactive materials, such as materials intended for generating nuclear power, conducting research, treating cancer, or sterilizing medical instruments. Such a weapon in the hands of a terrorist group or other “bad actor” could cause “hundreds of deaths from evacuations and billions of dollars of socioeconomic effects,” according Preventing a Dirty Bomb (GAO-22-103441).

House subcommittee asks for improvements to nuclear cleanup strategy

July 19, 2022, 7:07AMRadwaste Solutions
Rep. Jamaal Bowman during a hearing of the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy.

The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing last week to evaluate the Department of Energy’s approach to research and development on new strategies and technologies to support the nuclear waste cleanup mission of its Office of Environmental Management (EM).

GAO report: WIPP projects continue to be at risk

March 17, 2022, 6:54AMRadwaste Solutions
Workers construct a new ventilation system's filter building last year at WIPP. (Photo: DOE)

Without a plan for addressing issues in completing construction projects at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, the Department of Energy cannot ensure that further cost increases and schedule delays will not continue, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. In particular, the GAO said, the DOE has not developed a corrective action plan to address root causes identified for the rising cost and the delay in building a new ventilation system at the transuranic waste repository.

GAO asked to evaluate NRC’s preparedness for advanced reactor reviews

February 9, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Two GOP lawmakers are calling on the Government Accountability Office to undertake an assessment of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s preparedness to review and approve advanced reactor applications.

In a February 4 letter to the GAO, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote, “Recent NRC actions concerning certain licensing activities raise questions about the agency’s capability to manage effectively first-mover applications for new, advanced technologies.”

ANS Winter Meeting: Addressing the spent fuel dilemma

December 3, 2021, 11:59AMRadwaste Solutions

The President’s Special Session at the 2021 ANS Winter Meeting and Technology Expo, held Thursday morning, explored the current impasse over the management of spent nuclear fuel in the United States, with leaders from Congress and representatives from the Department of Energy and the U.S. Government Accountability Office sharing the work they are doing in an effort to break that impasse.

GAO urges Congress to address spent fuel stalemate

September 28, 2021, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Spent nuclear fuel in dry storage at the decommissioned Zion nuclear power plant in Illinois.

Congress needs to take action to break the impasse over a permanent solution for commercial spent nuclear fuel, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The GAO recommends that Congress amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) to authorize a new consent-based siting process, restructure the Nuclear Waste Fund, and direct the Department of Energy to develop and implement an integrated waste management strategy.

The GAO also recommends that the DOE finalize the consent-based process it began in 2015 for siting consolidated interim storage and permanent geologic repository facilities. The DOE agrees with that recommendation.

GAO: DOE could improve detection of contract fraud

January 14, 2021, 4:52PMANS Nuclear Cafe

In a report released yesterday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the Department of Energy’s methods for gathering information on its fraud risks do not capture all of the contracting fraud risks it faces.

The report identified nine categories of contracting fraud schemes that occurred at the DOE from 2013 to 2019: billing schemes, payroll schemes, product quality, theft, contract progress schemes, misrepresentation of eligibility, bid-rigging, kickbacks and gratuities, and conflicts of interest.

While acknowledging that the DOE has taken some steps to demonstrate a commitment to combat fraud and assess its contracting fraud risks, the GAO said that the department’s methods capture “selected fraud risks—rather than all fraud risks—facing DOE programs.” For instance, according to the report, the DOE’s risk profiles for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 did not identify four of the nine fraud schemes.

WIPP could run out of disposal space, GAO says

December 4, 2020, 9:29AMRadwaste Solutions

The aboveground portion of WIPP’s current ventilation system. Photo: GAO

A study of the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico has found that the repository faces long-term issues with ensuring sufficient physical space and statutory capacity to dispose of the federal government’s inventory of transuranic (TRU) waste. WIPP is the United States’ only repository for the disposal of TRU waste generated by the DOE’s nuclear weapons research and production.

The Government Accountability Office study, Better Planning Needed to Avoid Potential Disruptions at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (CAO-21-48), was published on November 19.

Uncertainties with WTP persist, GAO says

May 18, 2020, 12:23PMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management has not followed best practices or DOE policy in pursuing alternatives for pretreating radioactive tank waste at the Hanford Site, near Richland, Wash., according to a report released on May 12 by the Government Accountability Office. The DOE has spent over $400 million since 2013 looking into alternatives to pretreating Hanford’s low-activity waste (LAW), yet the department has not properly defined a mission need or a life-cycle cost estimate for its preferred alternative, according to the report.