|From:||Lenny Siegel <email@example.com>|
|Date:||6 Jul 2007 18:27:56 -0000|
|Subject:||[CPEO-MEF] GAO on Hanford (WA) vitrification|
Nuclear Waste: DOE Should Reassess Whether the Bulk Vitrification
Demonstration Project at Its Hanford Site Is Still Needed to Treat
Government Accountability Office GAO-07-762 June 12, 2007 (25 pages) SummaryThe Department of Energy (DOE) is demonstrating a technology called bulk vitrification, in parallel with the Hanford waste treatment plant, to treat a portion of the radioactive waste stored in 177 tanks at its Hanford site in southeastern Washington state. DOE faces technical and management problems that have affected the original objectives to justify demonstrating the bulk vitrification technology. This report discusses the extent to which DOE (1) has managed the bulk vitrification demonstration project consistent with DOE management guidance and (2) continues to need a supplemental technology, such as bulk vitrification, to treat a portion of the low-activity tank waste. To assess DOE's management of the project, GAO reviewed reports by DOE and others and discussed the project with DOE and contractor officials.
DOE did not follow its management requirements during the first 2 years of the demonstration project in an effort to accelerate tank waste cleanup. This decision contributed to a nearly fourfold increase in estimated costs from $62 million to $230 million and a 6-year delay on the project. DOE did not conduct key internal and external reviews and did not fully develop or update key project planning documents as required. Without these management tools, DOE initially overlooked a number of technical and safety problems facing the project, such as uncertainties about the quality of the glass formed using the bulk vitrification technology and inadequate systems to shield radioactive material from workers and the environment. In late 2005, largely because of these problems, DOE began taking steps to implement its management requirements on the project. DOE's need for a supplemental technology to treat a portion of the low-activity tank waste at Hanford is no longer clear, but DOE does not plan to reassess the need for the project before completing the demonstration. Originally, DOE justified the bulk vitrification project as a relatively low-cost, rapidly deployable supplemental technology to assist the department to complete tank waste treatment at Hanford by 2028. However, none of the key components to this justification remains today. First, the price of a full-scale bulk vitrification facility has risen to $3 billion or more, about the same cost as adding a second low-activity waste treatment facility to the waste treatment plant. Second, the technology is no longer rapidly deployable because, as discussed above, the project faces at least a 6-year delay. Finally, it is now apparent that completing tank waste treatment at Hanford by 2028 is not possible under any reasonable scenario and that the waste treatment plant must operate for longer than DOE previously planned. This is significant since longer operating periods may reduce the need for a supplemental technology. Given the plant's estimated treatment capacity, more of the low-activity waste could be treated in the waste treatment plant facilities. Although DOE's management guidance specifies that when conditions have significantly changed DOE should reassess the mission need of a project, DOE does not intend to conduct this reassessment because DOE officials said they want more information about the technology. Proceeding with the demonstration project before reaffirming the need for the project increases the risk that DOE will spend an additional $137 million or more to develop a technology that may not be needed.
For the original summary as well as a link to the full report, go to http://www.gao.gov/docdblite/details.php?rptno=GAO-07-762 -- Lenny Siegel Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041 Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545 Fax: 650/961-8918 <firstname.lastname@example.org> http://www.cpeo.org _______________________________________________ Military mailing list Military@list.cpeo.org http://www.cpeo.org/mailman/listinfo/military
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