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.