FAS | Space | Star Wars | GAO Reports |||| Index | Search |


Department of Energy: Plutonium Needs, Costs, and Management Programs (Letter Report, 04/17/97, GAO/RCED-97-98).

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of
Energy's (DOE) management of its plutonium inventory, focusing on: (1)
how much plutonium the United States allocated for national security
needs, how much it designated as excess, and how DOE determined these
amounts; (2) DOE's estimates of the current and near-term costs for
managing plutonium; and (3) DOE's estimates of the long-term costs for
managing plutonium.

GAO noted that: (1) the United States allocated 46.8 metric tons of its
99.5 metric-ton plutonium inventory for national security purposes and
designated the remaining 52.7 metric tons as excess; (2) to determine
how much plutonium was needed for national security, DOE reviewed its
plutonium inventory database; (3) in general, the plutonium in the
custody of the Department of Defense and some of the plutonium managed
by DOE's Defense Programs, the organization responsible for supporting
the nation's nuclear weapons, was categorized as needed for national
security purposes; (4) the remaining plutonium managed by Defense
Programs and other DOE organizations was categorized as excess to
national security needs and will ultimately be disposed of; (5) the
national security plutonium is further divided into several
subcategories; (6) DOE has a technical basis to support the need for the
amounts of plutonium it holds in most but not all of these
subcategories; (7) from fiscal year (FY) 1995 through FY 2002, DOE
expects to spend about $18.8 billion on plutonium management and related
activities; (8) these costs consist of about $10.5 billion for plutonium
inventory management activities, including approximately $1.8 billion
for national security plutonium and $8.7 billion for excess plutonium;
(9) DOE expects to spend another $8.3 billion for plutonium-related
waste management and site cleanup activities; (10) the costs of managing
excess plutonium are about four times greater than the costs of managing
national security plutonium because much of the excess plutonium is held
in unstable forms and requires special management activities, such as
handling, processing, and packaging; (11) national security plutonium is
generally contained in more stable forms, such as metals and weapons
components, and therefore requires less management; (12) DOE also
expects to spend over $3 billion for longer-term plutonium storage and
conversion activities through about 2023; (13) this estimate is based on
DOE's plans for storing the excess plutonium and converting it to forms
that will make it more difficult to reuse in nuclear weapons; and (14)
however, DOE's cost and schedule estimates are subject to many
uncertainties, a number of which stem from the relative immaturity of
the planned conversion technologies.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  RCED-97-98
     TITLE:  Department of Energy: Plutonium Needs, Costs, and 
             Management Programs
      DATE:  04/17/97
   SUBJECT:  Nuclear waste management
             Nuclear waste storage
             Nuclear waste disposal
             Atomic energy defense activities
             Cost analysis
             Nuclear facilities
             Nuclear proliferation
             Inventory control
             Radioactive wastes
IDENTIFIER:  Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty
             DOE Quality Assurance and Reliability Testing Program
             
******************************************************************
** This file contains an ASCII representation of the text of a  **
** GAO report.  Delineations within the text indicating chapter **
** titles, headings, and bullets are preserved.  Major          **
** divisions and subdivisions of the text, such as Chapters,    **
** Sections, and Appendixes, are identified by double and       **
** single lines.  The numbers on the right end of these lines   **
** indicate the position of each of the subsections in the      **
** document outline.  These numbers do NOT correspond with the  **
** page numbers of the printed product.                         **
**                                                              **
** No attempt has been made to display graphic images, although **
** figure captions are reproduced.  Tables are included, but    **
** may not resemble those in the printed version.               **
**                                                              **
** Please see the PDF (Portable Document Format) file, when     **
** available, for a complete electronic file of the printed     **
** document's contents.                                         **
**                                                              **
** A printed copy of this report may be obtained from the GAO   **
** Document Distribution Center.  For further details, please   **
** send an e-mail message to:                                   **
**                                                              **
**                    <info@www.gao.gov>                        **
**                                                              **
** with the message 'info' in the body.                         **
******************************************************************


Cover
================================================================ COVER


Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Energy and Power, Committee
on Commerce, House of Representatives

April 1997

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY - PLUTONIUM
NEEDS, COSTS, AND MANAGEMENT
PROGRAMS

GAO/RCED-97-98

Plutonium Management

(302198)


Abbreviations
=============================================================== ABBREV

  DOD - Department of Defense
  DOE - Department of Energy
  GAO - General Accounting Office
  INEEL - Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory
  MOX - mixed oxide (fuel)
  NWC - Nuclear Weapons Council
  START - Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty

Letter
=============================================================== LETTER


B-276407

April 17, 1997

The Honorable Dan Schaefer
Chairman, Subcommittee on Energy
 and Power
Committee on Commerce
House of Representatives

Dear Mr.  Chairman: 

With the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union,
the Department of Energy (DOE), while continuing to manage
weapons-grade plutonium and other nuclear materials used in nuclear
weapons, is turning its attention to managing nuclear materials
designated as excess to national security requirements and to
cleaning up the contamination resulting from 50 years of nuclear
weapons production.  As part of this transition, the United States
has divided its 99.5-metric-ton plutonium inventory into two major
categories--that which is allocated for national security needs and
that which is designated as excess. 

Concerned about DOE's ability to manage the plutonium inventory, you
asked us to (1) review how much plutonium the United States allocated
for national security needs, how much it designated as excess, and
how DOE determined these amounts; (2) review DOE's estimates of the
current and near-term costs for managing plutonium; and (3) review
DOE's estimates of the long-term costs for managing plutonium. 


   RESULTS IN BRIEF
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

The United States allocated 46.8 metric tons of its 99.5-metric-ton
plutonium inventory for national security purposes and designated the
remaining 52.7 metric tons as excess.  To determine how much
plutonium was needed for national security, DOE reviewed its
plutonium inventory database.  In general, the plutonium in the
custody of the Department of Defense and some of the plutonium
managed by DOE's Defense Programs--the organization responsible for
supporting the nation's nuclear weapons--was categorized as needed
for national security purposes.  The remaining plutonium managed by
Defense Programs and other DOE organizations was categorized as
excess to national security needs and will ultimately be disposed of. 
The national security plutonium is further divided into several
subcategories.\1 DOE has a technical basis to support the need for
the amounts of plutonium it holds in most but not all of these
subcategories. 

From fiscal year 1995 through fiscal year 2002, DOE expects to spend
about $18.8 billion\2

on plutonium management and related activities.  These costs consist
of about $10.5 billion for plutonium inventory management activities,
including approximately $1.8 billion for national security plutonium
and $8.7 billion for excess plutonium.  DOE expects to spend another
$8.3 billion for plutonium-related waste management and site cleanup
activities.  The costs of managing excess plutonium are about four
times greater than the costs of managing national security plutonium
because much of the excess plutonium is held in unstable forms and
requires special management activities, such as handling, processing,
and packaging.  National security plutonium is generally contained in
more stable forms, such as metals and weapons components, and
therefore requires less management. 

DOE also expects to spend over $3 billion for longer-term plutonium
storage and conversion activities through about 2023.\3 This estimate
is based on DOE's plans for storing the excess plutonium and
converting it to forms that will make it more difficult to reuse in
nuclear weapons.  However, DOE's cost and schedule estimates are
subject to many uncertainties, a number of which stem from the
relative immaturity of the planned conversion technologies. 


--------------------
\1 The actual inventory amounts allocated among the national security
subcategories are classified. 

\2 All cost estimates are presented in constant 1996 dollars. 

\3 This estimate includes only the costs associated with the
long-term storage and disposition of excess weapons-usable plutonium;
it excludes the continuing costs of other plutonium management and
related activities. 


   BACKGROUND
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

Plutonium is a man-made, radioactive element that exists in different
isotopes\4 and physical forms.  The different isotopes of plutonium
have widely varying half-lives,\5

ranging from 20 minutes to 76 million years.  These isotopes are used
to define the different grades of plutonium that are used in nuclear
warheads and as fuel for nuclear reactors.  Physically, plutonium
exists in several forms--metal, which is relatively stable if
packaged correctly, and other forms that are often unstable, such as
oxides, solutions, residues, and scraps.\6 During the production era,
DOE recycled, purified, and converted the less stable forms of
plutonium, which resulted from weapons production activities, into
metal for use in nuclear warheads.  Much of DOE's excess plutonium
was not in a suitable form or packaged for long-term storage when
weapons production ceased.  As a result, some packaging and related
problems have developed over time.  (See app.  I.)

From World War II to the end of the Cold War, DOE and its predecessor
agencies conducted nuclear research, produced plutonium, and
manufactured and tested nuclear weapons at sites throughout the
United States.  No plutonium has been produced for weapons since
1988.  The 99.5 metric tons of plutonium that remain in the U.S. 
government's inventory today is in the custody of the Department of
Defense (DOD) and DOE.  DOD has custody of the plutonium in warheads
in the nuclear weapons stockpile, which are located at military bases
around the world, and DOE manages the rest of the plutonium, which is
located primarily at eight DOE sites:  Argonne National
Laboratory-West, Hanford Site, Idaho National Engineering and
Environmental Laboratory (INEEL), Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Pantex Plant, Rocky Flats
Environmental Technology Site, and Savannah River Site.  (See fig. 
1.)

   Figure 1:  Sites Storing the
   Majority of DOE's Plutonium

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

   Source:  DOE.

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Although DOE no longer produces plutonium for weapons, some of the
plutonium it produced in the past continues to present environmental,
safety, and health hazards, as well as concerns about proliferation,
and therefore requires careful management.  The hazards and concerns
associated with plutonium include the following: 

  -- Plutonium is extremely toxic and can be fatal, especially when
     inhaled. 

  -- Several kilograms\7 of plutonium are sufficient to make a
     nuclear bomb.  Although attempts are made to control access to
     nuclear materials, thefts have occurred in the former Soviet
     Union since the end of the Cold War, raising concerns about
     nuclear proliferation and international terrorism.\8

  -- Today, land, buildings, and equipment used in making nuclear
     weapons, remain contaminated and present environmental hazards. 
     To address these hazards, DOE expects to spend nearly $229
     billion over the next 75 years.\9 Although DOE does not track
     cleanup costs specifically for plutonium, a major portion of
     these costs can likely be attributed to plutonium or related
     activities. 

Additional information on the dangers of plutonium is provided in
appendix I. 

Even though the United States no longer manufactures new nuclear
weapons, some plutonium is still used in nuclear weapons and for
research, development, and testing programs.  DOD establishes nuclear
weapons requirements, and DOE subsequently determines how much
plutonium is necessary to support these requirements.  The Nuclear
Weapons Council (NWC)\10 coordinates nuclear program activities
between DOD and DOE and submits documents containing weapons
requirements to the National Security Council and the President for
approval. 


--------------------
\4 An isotope is any of two or more species of atoms of a chemical
element with the same atomic number (i.e., the same number of
protons) and chemical behavior but with differing atomic mass (i.e.,
differing numbers of neutrons plus protons). 

\5 A half-life is the time required for half of an element's atoms to
decay. 

\6 Plutonium may be considered unstable if it is (1) in a chemical
form which makes its behavior difficult to predict (i.e., some forms
can spontaneously combust or oxidize), (2) mixed with hazardous or
corrosive materials, or (3) inadequately packaged. 

\7 One kilogram equals 2.205 pounds. 

\8 DOE's Nonproliferation and Arms Control Assessment of
Weapons-Usable Fissile Material Storage and Excess Plutonium
Disposition Alternatives (Jan.  1997). 

\9 U.S.  Department of Energy Consolidated Financial Statements for
Fiscal Year 1996 (Feb.  1997). 

\10 Established in 1986, NWC includes the Under Secretary of Defense
for Acquisition and Technology; the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff; and a DOE representative, currently the Deputy Secretary of
Energy. 


   DOE HAS A TECHNICAL BASIS FOR
   MOST BUT NOT ALL OF ITS
   NATIONAL SECURITY PLUTONIUM
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

The nation's 99.5-metric-ton inventory of plutonium is divided into
two categories--that which is allocated for national security (46.8
metric tons) and that which is designated as excess (52.7 metric
tons).  The national security plutonium is further allocated among
several subcategories.  Although DOE could justify most of these
allocations, we found that it had no technical basis for the amounts
of plutonium allocated for reliability replacement warheads and for
the strategic reserve. 


      UNITED STATES DECLARES
      EXCESS PLUTONIUM
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :3.1

In 1995, for the first time in the history of the U.S.  nuclear
weapons program, the United States declared that 38.2 metric tons of
weapons-grade plutonium was no longer needed for national security
and was, therefore, excess.  (In addition, DOE designated 14.5 metric
tons of non-weapons-grade plutonium as excess.) According to DOE,
this declaration was an important step in implementing the
Nonproliferation and Export Control Policy, which was issued by the
President in September 1993.  This policy calls for the United States
to eliminate, where possible, the accumulation of plutonium
stockpiles and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction. 

According to DOE officials, DOE reviewed its existing plutonium
inventory records to determine how much of its weapons-grade
plutonium was needed for national security.  All weapons-grade
plutonium that was in the custody of DOD in the active and inactive
stockpile and some of the weapons-grade plutonium assigned to and
managed by DOE's Defense Programs organization was categorized as
needed for national security.  This plutonium is for use in nuclear
weapons; the strategic reserve; mutual defense; and research,
development, and testing programs.  All other plutonium that was
assigned to or managed by any other DOE organizations (as well as the
plutonium remaining with Defense Programs that was not required for
national security) was categorized as not needed for national
security.  Ultimately, DOE will dispose of this excess plutonium.  On
the basis of this inventory review, DOE decided that 46.8 metric tons
of weapons-grade plutonium should be held for national security and
that the remaining 52.7 metric tons of plutonium--including 38.2
metric tons of weapons-grade and 14.5 metric tons of
non-weapons-grade--could be declared excess to national security
needs.  The categorization of the current U.S.  plutonium inventory
is shown in table 1. 



                                Table 1
                
                    Current U.S. Plutonium Inventory

                        (Amounts in metric tons)

Categories of plutonium\a                                       Amount
----------------------------------------  ----------------------------
National security weapons-grade\                                  46.8
Excess weapons-grade                                              38.2
Excess non-weapons-grade                                          14.5
======================================================================
Total                                                             99.5
----------------------------------------------------------------------
\a In DOE's inventory or in nuclear weapons held by DOD. 

Source:  DOE. 


      SIGNIFICANT FUTURE CHANGES
      IN THE CATEGORIZATION OF
      PLUTONIUM ARE UNLIKELY
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :3.2

Significant changes in the amounts of plutonium dedicated to national
security are unlikely in the near future.  According to DOE
officials, the United States has no plans to formally declare
additional amounts of plutonium excess to national security needs. 
According to one DOE official, any future declarations would depend
on international agreements or political decisions, such as (1)
Russia's ratification of the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty
(START-II);\11 (2) ratification of possible additional weapons
reduction treaties, like START-III; or (3) a change in the role of
nuclear weapons in the nation's defense posture.  However, even these
events would not necessarily result in additional declarations of
excess plutonium.  Instead, according to a DOE official, decreases in
the active stockpile may be offset by reclassifying some of the
plutonium from the active stockpile to the inactive stockpile or the
strategic reserve.  Therefore, even if the number of active warheads
decreases, the total amount of plutonium allocated for national
security will likely remain at 46.8 metric tons. 


--------------------
\11 The two Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties, START-I and START-II,
call for the United States and Russia to reduce their deployed
strategic nuclear weapons (and remove or destroy these weapons'
delivery systems).  Additional information on the START treaties
appears in app.  I. 


      DOE COULD JUSTIFY MOST BUT
      NOT ALL OF ITS NATIONAL
      SECURITY PLUTONIUM
      ALLOCATIONS
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :3.3

The national security plutonium is allocated among four categories,
and the amounts in these categories are classified.  According to
DOE, the allocation for the first and second categories, warheads in
the active and inactive nuclear weapons stockpile, are in weapons in
the custody of DOD.\12 The remainder of the national security
plutonium, managed by DOE, is allocated to the strategic reserve\13
and to mutual defense and research and development programs. 
Although DOE could justify the amounts of plutonium allocated to most
of these categories, it could not provide a technical basis for the
amounts allocated for reliability replacement warheads within the
inactive stockpile and for the strategic reserve.  Table 2 lists the
allocations of national security plutonium and their principal uses
and indicates whether the allocations have a technical basis. 



                                Table 2
                
                  Principal Uses of National Security
                               Plutonium

                                                    Technical basis
                                                    for the
Allocation                      Principal uses      allocation?
------------------------------  ------------------  ------------------
Active nuclear weapons          Warheads in active  Yes
stockpile                       nuclear weapons


Inactive nuclear weapons stockpile
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Augmentation                    Warheads in         Yes
warheads                        storage that could
                                be returned to the
                                active stockpile

Reliability                     Warheads stored     No
replacement                     for replacing
warheads                        active stockpile
                                warheads if they
                                develop
                                reliability or
                                safety problems

Additional warheads             Warheads stored to  Yes
                                replace active
                                stockpile warheads
                                intentionally
                                destroyed during
                                quality assurance
                                and reliability
                                testing

Strategic reserve               Plutonium stored    No
                                to replace failed
                                active warheads if
                                there is no backup
                                in the inactive
                                stockpile

Mutual defense and research     Plutonium held to   Yes
and development                 support agreements
                                with allied
                                countries and
                                DOE's research and
                                development
                                programs
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Source:  GAO's analysis based on data from DOE. 

As table 2 indicates, DOE appeared to have a technical basis for most
of the allocations of national security plutonium.  DOE provided the
following justifications for these allocations: 

  -- The allocation for the active stockpile is determined through an
     annual process driven by DOD's nuclear weapons requirements. 
     DOD determines the types and numbers of weapons it wants to
     support national security needs, and DOE determines how much
     plutonium is needed for the required warheads and for their
     support. 

  -- Augmentation warheads in the inactive stockpile are reserved to
     allow DOD and DOE to raise the active stockpile levels if
     necessary. 

  -- Additional warheads in the inactive stockpile are held to
     replace warheads that are removed from the active stockpile and
     used for testing.  The number of warheads needed as replacements
     is based on requirements of DOE's Quality Assurance and
     Reliability Testing Program. 

  -- The amount of plutonium held for mutual defense is based on
     signed agreements between the United States and its allies.  The
     plutonium held for research and development is used by DOE's
     laboratories and its amount is based on an established forecast
     and allotment system. 

While DOE appeared to have adequate justification for these
allocations of national security plutonium, it could not justify the
allocations of plutonium for reliability replacement warheads in the
inactive stockpile or for the strategic reserve, which represent a
significant portion of the national security plutonium: 

  -- Neither DOE nor NWC officials could demonstrate a basis for the
     number of reliability replacement warheads being held to replace
     active stockpile warheads in case they develop reliability or
     safety problems.  DOE and NWC could not demonstrate that an
     analysis of the failure rate for active warheads had been
     conducted or that a technical assessment had been done to
     determine the need for this level of backup support. 

  -- According to DOE, the plutonium held in the strategic reserve is
     for rapidly building warheads to respond to unforeseen events
     (such as warhead failures) that are not already provided for in
     the inactive stockpile.  However, neither DOE nor NWC officials
     could demonstrate that a technical analysis had been conducted
     to justify the amount of plutonium held for this purpose. 

DOE officials believe that the allocations of plutonium for
reliability replacement warheads and for the strategic reserve are
prudent because (1) nuclear weapons are required to deter forces
hostile to the United States and its allies; (2) no new nuclear
weapons are currently being designed, developed or manufactured; (3)
the United States has no active underground nuclear testing program;
and (4) nuclear weapons in the stockpile are being retained beyond
their original expected service life.  For these reasons, DOD and
DOE, in deciding how much plutonium to hold for reliability
replacement warheads and for the strategic reserve, assume that all
of the nuclear warheads in the active stockpile will fail. 
Therefore, DOD and DOE believe that each active warhead needs to be
supported either by a backup warhead in the reliability replacement
category or by plutonium in the strategic reserve.  While we
recognize the prudence of holding some plutonium for these reasons,
we question whether there is a technical basis for the amounts of
plutonium being held in these two subcategories.  Without a technical
basis, the United States cannot be sure it is retaining the correct
amount of plutonium for national security purposes. 


--------------------
\12 According to DOE, to determine the amount of plutonium required
to support these warheads, DOE multiplies the number of warheads by
the amount of plutonium each contains. 

\13 According to DOE, a strategic reserve of plutonium is required to
support the production of replacement warheads when DOD believes that
the number of inactive warheads is insufficient to back up the supply
of active warheads. 


   CURRENT AND NEAR-TERM PLUTONIUM
   ACTIVITIES ARE ESTIMATED TO
   COST BILLIONS OF DOLLARS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4

DOE estimates that it spends more than $2 billion a year,\14 or over
12 percent of its current annual budget, to manage its plutonium
inventory and perform other plutonium-related activities.  Because
excess plutonium is often held in unstable forms--such as oxides,
solutions, residues, and scraps--it requires many management
activities and is therefore costly to manage.  In contrast, national
security plutonium is generally stored in sealed metal weapons
components, is relatively stable, and is therefore less costly to
manage.  However, the costs of managing excess plutonium are expected
to decline after it is disposed of in a permanent repository,\15
while the costs of managing national security plutonium are likely to
continue indefinitely. 


--------------------
\14 DOE based its estimates of plutonium-related costs, for fiscal
year 1995 through fiscal year 2002, on available cost information as
well as officials' technical expertise and professional judgment. 
All cost estimates are presented in constant 1996 dollars. 

\15 The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as amended, requires the
Secretary of Energy to determine, on the basis of an investigation of
Yucca Mountain, Nevada, whether this site is suitable for a
repository and, if this determination is positive, to recommend to
the President that the site be selected for that purpose.  If the
site is formally selected, DOE must apply to the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission for authorization (a license) to construct a repository
there. 


      UNSTABLE EXCESS PLUTONIUM IS
      COSTLY TO MANAGE
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :4.1

From fiscal year 1995 through fiscal year 2002, DOE expects to spend
about $18.8 billion on plutonium management and related activities at
the eight sites responsible for managing most of its plutonium. 
These costs include about $10.5 billion for plutonium inventory
management and about $8.3 billion for plutonium-related waste
management and site cleanup.  The inventory management costs include
about $8.7 billion for excess plutonium and about $1.8 billion for
national security plutonium. 

The inventory management costs included in DOE's estimate are for (1)
storing and maintaining the plutonium inventories, including
providing safeguards and security; (2) stabilizing, handling, and
packaging the plutonium; (3) performing weapons-related activities,
such as disassembling and dismantling weapons, managing the active
stockpile, and conducting research and development; and (4) other
activities, mainly managing DOE's spent nuclear fuel containing
plutonium.  Plutonium-related waste management and site cleanup
activities are generally attributable to past plutonium production or
other plutonium-related activities at the sites.  Thus, their
associated costs cannot be linked directly to either excess or
national security plutonium.  Table 3 summarizes DOE's estimates of
these costs. 



                                Table 3
                
                 Estimated Current and Near-Term Costs
                 for Plutonium Inventory Management and
                 Related Activities, Fiscal Years 1995-
                                  2002

                         (Dollars in millions)

                                              Costs\a
                              ----------------------------------------
                                  National
                                  security        Excess
Activity                         plutonium     plutonium         Total
----------------------------  ------------  ------------  ------------
Plutonium inventory management activities
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Storage and maintenance             $1,462        $5,597        $7,059
Stabilization, handling, and           174           655           829
 packaging
Weapons-related                        153             0           153
 activities\\b
Other\c                                  4         2,434         2,438
======================================================================
Subtotal                            $1,793        $8,686       $10,479

Plutonium-related management activities
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Waste management                        \d            \d         6,450
Site cleanup                            \d            \d         1,835
======================================================================
Subtotal                                \d            \d        $8,285
======================================================================
Total                                   \e            \e       $18,764
----------------------------------------------------------------------
\a All dollars are adjusted to constant 1996 dollars. 

\b Includes weapons disassembly and dismantlement, stockpile
management support, research and development, and other costs related
to plutonium in weapons. 

\c Represents predominantly the cost of managing spent nuclear fuel
containing plutonium.  Although the plutonium in DOE's spent nuclear
fuel is not considered usable for nuclear weapons, it is accounted
for in DOE's plutonium inventory. 

\d These costs are not related specifically to either excess or
national security plutonium. 

\e Not applicable. 

Source:  GAO's analysis of data from DOE. 

As shown in table 3, over 80 percent ($8,686 million) of DOE's
inventory management costs are attributable to excess plutonium,
while less than 20 percent ($1,793 million) are attributable to
national security plutonium. 

The costs of managing excess plutonium are high because much of
it--including some oxides, solutions, residues, and scraps--is
unstable and requires costly handling, processing, packaging, and
storage.  At many DOE facilities, the plutonium in these forms
remained in an unsafe condition after DOE stopped producing plutonium
and nuclear weapons.  As a result, contractors at these facilities
are still stabilizing the plutonium and correcting packaging problems
that remained when weapons production ceased.  At Rocky Flats, for
example, some of the excess plutonium is contained in highly acidic,
corrosive solutions that can damage containers.  Plutonium in this
form creates a potential for leakage that could, in turn, expose
workers to hazards or contaminate the environment.  Accordingly, the
plutonium in solutions must be stabilized and repackaged. 

In contrast, the costs of managing national security plutonium are
relatively low because this plutonium is generally stored in sealed
metal weapons components (pits), is relatively stable, and requires
little near-term management, according to DOE officials.  For
example, at the Pantex Plant, which stores the majority of DOE's
national security plutonium in pits, the plutonium management costs
are relatively low. 

Although the costs of managing excess plutonium are higher than those
of managing national security plutonium, the excess plutonium will
eventually be converted to safer forms and disposed of in a permanent
underground repository.  At that time, its management costs will
fall.  In contrast, the costs of managing national security plutonium
will continue as long as the United States requires plutonium for its
nuclear weapons.  Given that DOE has no plans to reduce its
requirements for national security plutonium or to categorize
additional amounts as excess, these costs can be expected to continue
into the foreseeable future. 


   DOE'S STORAGE AND CONVERSION
   PLAN FACES LONG-TERM COSTS AND
   UNCERTAINTIES
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

In addition to the current and near-term costs of managing plutonium
from fiscal year 1995 through fiscal year 2002, DOE expects to incur
long-term costs, through about 2023, for storing and converting
excess plutonium to safer forms that will ultimately be disposed of
in a permanent underground repository.  On the basis of early
conceptual design data and preliminary plans, DOE estimates that
these costs will total more than $3 billion.  This estimate is based
on DOE's January 1997 record of decision,\16 which details the
Department's plan for storing and converting excess plutonium to
forms that are difficult to reuse in nuclear weapons and are suitable
for permanent disposal.  To convert the excess plutonium to such
forms, DOE has decided to pursue a dual-track strategy:  burning the
plutonium in reactors and immobilizing it in glass or ceramics. 
However, uncertainties surrounding both the storage and the
conversion parts of DOE's strategy have unknown cost and schedule
implications. 


--------------------
\16 DOE's Record of Decision for the Storage and Disposition of
Weapons-Usable Fissile Materials Final Programmatic Environmental
Impact Statement (Jan.  14, 1997). 


      DOE'S STRATEGY AND COST
      ESTIMATES FOR STORAGE AND
      CONVERSION
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.1

While DOE's recent record of decision focuses on converting the
nation's excess plutonium to safer forms for disposal, DOE must store
the plutonium until it can be converted and then store the converted
plutonium until a repository is available for its disposal. 
Currently, neither facilities for converting the plutonium nor a
repository for its permanent disposal is available.  Until DOE has
developed and built conversion facilities, it plans to store the
excess plutonium at five sites.  DOE estimates that this storage
could cost over $1 billion from 2002 through 2019.\17 This estimate
includes approximately $140 million for constructing a new storage
facility at Savannah River; about $390 million for upgrading,
expanding, and operating the facilities at Pantex and Savannah River;
and as much as $600 million for operating the storage facilities at
Hanford, INEEL, and Los Alamos.  After the plutonium is converted,
DOE plans to store the canisters of immobilized plutonium and the
spent fuel at the conversion facilities until a permanent repository
is available for their final disposal. 

DOE's dual-track strategy calls for the use of two different
technologies to convert the plutonium into safer forms that meet the
"spent fuel standard." This standard requires that the plutonium be
made as inaccessible and unattractive for use in nuclear weapons as
the plutonium in spent fuel from commercial nuclear power reactors. 
One of the conversion tracks involves immobilizing plutonium in
either glass or ceramic material within small containers.  These
containers are placed inside large stainless steel canisters, which
are then filled with glass containing high-level waste to provide a
radiation barrier.\18 The other track converts plutonium into spent
fuel by burning it as fuel in existing commercial reactors.  The
plutonium is first processed into plutonium dioxide, which is then
mixed with uranium dioxide to make mixed oxide (MOX) fuel.  The MOX
fuel is then burned in a commercial reactor to generate electricity. 
Regardless of the conversion track used, the end product will meet
the spent fuel standard and will ultimately require disposal in a
permanent underground repository.  Figure 2 illustrates DOE's storage
and conversion strategy. 

   Figure 2:  DOE's Storage and
   Conversion Strategy

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Source:  DOE. 

In addition to over $1 billion in storage costs, DOE estimates that
implementing its dual-track conversion strategy will cost
approximately $2 billion through about 2023.  (See app.  II for more
information on DOE's schedule estimates for conversion.) This cost
estimate reflects both investment and operating costs.  Investment
costs cover research and development, licensing, conceptual design,
start-up, engineering, capital equipment, and construction. 
Operating costs cover staffing, maintenance, consumables, waste
management, and decontamination and decommissioning.  Also, in
estimating the MOX fuel costs, DOE assumed that some costs could be
recovered when reactor operators acquire MOX fuel from DOE instead of
purchasing conventional reactor fuel.  DOE refers to these recovered
costs as fuel displacement credits.  Table 4 presents a breakdown of
DOE's cost estimate for the conversion strategy. 



                                Table 4
                
                Estimated Costs to Implement DOE's Dual-
                       Track Conversion Strategy

                         (Dollars in millions)

                                      Estimated costs\a
                        ----------------------------------------------
                                                      Fuel
                        Investment   Operating  displaceme
Facility                      cost        cost   nt credit       Total
----------------------  ----------  ----------  ----------  ==========
Preconversion                $ 360       $ 970         $ 0      $1,330
 processing
Immobilization\b,c             220          60           0         280
MOX fuel fabrication           360       680\d       (930)         110
Reactor\c                      200          90           0         290
Repository                     0\e          30           0          30
======================================================================
Total                       $1,140      $1,830      ($930)      $2,040
----------------------------------------------------------------------
\a All dollars are adjusted to constant 1996 dollars. 

\b Assumes that the "can-in-canister" method will be used and the
immobilization portion of the strategy will have an accelerated
start. 

\c Assumes that the purest of the excess plutonium will be burned as
MOX fuel and the remainder will be immobilized. 

\d Does not include the costs of implementing an option described by
DOE as a remote possibility, namely, that European MOX fuel
fabrication facilities will be used to speed up the availability of
MOX fuel until the United States builds its own MOX fuel fabrication
facility.  This option would add $140 million to the MOX fuel
operating costs and increase the total cost of the strategy from
$2.04 billion to $2.18 billion. 

\e Does not include the investment costs for DOE's underground
repository, since they are included under other DOE budgets. 

Source:  DOE. 


--------------------
\17 Storage costs of a few million dollars could be incurred at
Pantex as early as 1999 or 2000. 

\18 This is the "can-in-canister" variation of the immobilization
technology, considered the most likely to be used. 


      DOE'S STORAGE AND CONVERSION
      STRATEGY IS SUBJECT TO
      UNCERTAINTIES
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.2

Although DOE has developed a strategy for storing and converting
excess plutonium, this strategy is subject to uncertainties that will
affect its implementation.  These uncertainties are associated with
technology, facility, and nonproliferation issues.  How these
uncertainties are resolved will determine whether DOE uses one or
both of the conversion technologies, how much plutonium will be
converted through either technology, and how long the plutonium will
have to be stored before and after conversion. 


      TECHNOLOGY UNCERTAINTIES
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.3

Uncertainties are associated with developing the immobilization
technology and implementing the MOX fuel technology in the United
States.  Neither technology has yet been proved effective for use in
DOE's conversion strategy, and both pose issues that must be
addressed prior to implementation: 

  -- Although immobilization has been used for other industrial
     purposes and other materials, it has never been used on an
     industrial scale for plutonium.  Unresolved questions include
     how the plutonium will react in the immobilization processing,
     how stable and durable the immobilized material will be, how
     difficult recovering the plutonium from the immobilized forms
     will be, and what percentage of plutonium will be immobilized in
     glass or ceramics. 

  -- MOX fuel technology is more advanced and has been used in
     reactors in other countries for many years.  However, MOX fuel
     is not currently being used in reactors in the United States, no
     U.S.  reactors are licensed to use this fuel, and no MOX fuel
     fabrication facilities exist in the United States.  Additional
     uncertainties surrounding the MOX technology include the
     percentage of plutonium that will be used in the U.S.  MOX fuel
     (likely to differ from the percentage used in the European MOX
     fuel) and the potential effects, on the fuel or reactors, of
     materials that were added to the plutonium used in weapons
     components. 

In addition to fully developing and implementing the two technologies
and addressing these uncertainties, DOE must demonstrate the
technologies' compliance with regulatory and oversight requirements. 

Because both conversion technologies are relatively immature and
uncertainties surround their development and implementation, DOE
cannot confidently forecast how long it will have to store the excess
plutonium before conversion facilities are available.  Under DOE's
plans, the consolidation and storage of plutonium will be complete in
about 2019 at Pantex, about 2011 at Savannah River, and as early as
2006 at the three remaining sites--Hanford, INEEL, and Los Alamos. 
Delays in conversion would extend the time the plutonium would have
to be stored at some or all of the storage sites. 


      FACILITY UNCERTAINTIES
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.4

Questions about facilities also pose uncertainties, most of which
stem from the immaturity of the conversion technologies.  That is,
until the technologies are further developed, DOE cannot decide on
the type and number of facilities it will need for immobilization. 
Furthermore, DOE has not yet decided where to place the facilities
that will be required to process the plutonium, whether for
immobilization or for use in MOX fuel.  Similarly, DOE has not
determined the type, number, or locations of the commercial reactors
that will be needed to burn the MOX fuel.  Resolving these issues
will depend not only on the maturation of the conversion technologies
but also on such things as contract negotiations with reactor owners,
licensing requirements, and environmental reviews. 

Further uncertainties are associated with the underground repository
where DOE plans to permanently dispose of converted plutonium. 
Although DOE assumes that a permanent repository will be ready to
accept the converted plutonium in 2010 (12 years later than
originally expected), DOE cannot be certain that a repository will
open on schedule.  DOE is currently assessing the Yucca Mountain site
to determine its viability for a repository.  In January 1997, we
reported that several impediments and uncertainties about standards
and licensing must be resolved in order for DOE to achieve its
revised 2010 opening date.\19 If a repository is not available, the
converted plutonium will have to remain in storage at the conversion
facilities and the costs of storage will increase. 


--------------------
\19 See Nuclear Waste:  Impediments to Completing the Yucca Mountain
Repository Project (GAO/RCED-97-30, Jan.  17, 1997). 


      NONPROLIFERATION
      UNCERTAINTIES
---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.5

DOE faces uncertainties concerning nonproliferation issues.  DOE's
conversion strategy was designed, in part, to support U.S. 
nonproliferation goals.  The United States is beginning to implement
the dual-track conversion strategy to set an example for Russia and
encourage it to take similar actions.  However, according to DOE, the
schedule for converting the excess U.S.  plutonium depends on
reaching agreements with Russia concerning reductions of its
stockpiles of excess plutonium.  To date, no such agreements have
been finalized.  These agreements will also influence the extent to
which DOE relies on each of the two conversion strategies. 


   OBSERVATIONS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

The United States has taken important steps to reduce the dangers of
nuclear proliferation associated with holding excess plutonium. 
However, how accurately DOD and DOE determine the amount of plutonium
needed for national security and how much DOE designates as excess
may have important long-term implications.  Without a technical basis
for its categorizations, we believe that the United States cannot be
certain it is retaining the correct amount of plutonium for national
security purposes.  Potential impacts of not holding the correct
amount include the following: 

  -- DOD relies on DOE to provide enough plutonium to support the
     nuclear stockpile.  Without a technical analysis of the amounts
     required for each of the national security subcategories, DOE
     cannot ensure that it is holding the correct amount of plutonium
     to provide this support. 

  -- Conversely, if DOD and DOE are holding more plutonium than is
     needed for national security, they may not be fully implementing
     U.S.  policies to reduce existing stockpiles of excess
     weapons-usable plutonium as quickly as practicable. 

  -- Within DOE, plans and budgets depend on how plutonium is
     categorized.  DOE's plan for the long-term storage and
     management of national security plutonium is based on current
     allocations to that category.  Similarly, DOE's plan for storing
     and converting excess plutonium relies on the amount categorized
     as excess.  A change in the amount of plutonium allocated to
     either category could affect DOE's projected costs and schedules
     for both. 


   AGENCY COMMENTS
------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :7

We provided a draft of this report to DOE, NWC, and DOD for their
review and comment.  While NWC declined to comment on this report,
DOD, as a component of NWC, provided comments on the draft.  Although
DOE and DOD generally agreed that the information in the report was
accurate, they disagreed with our position that a technical basis is
lacking for the allocations of national security plutonium for
reliability replacement warheads in the inactive nuclear weapons
stockpile and for the strategic reserve. 

In its response to our draft report, DOE noted that the requirements
for reliability replacement warheads and for the strategic reserve
are prescribed by DOD.  DOE also expressed "high confidence [that]
the nuclear force structure, as specified by DOD, is based on solid
technical analysis and is consistent with legislation, treaties, and
policy decisions." (See app.  IV for DOE's comments.)

To follow up on DOE's written comments, we asked the Director of the
Office of Nuclear Weapons Management, Defense Programs, to clarify
the Department's reference to a "solid technical analysis." While
agreeing that DOE could not demonstrate that such an analysis had
been conducted for the allocations of plutonium for reliability
replacement warheads and for the strategic reserve, he maintained
that these allocations are based on prudence and expertise.  The
Director clarified that the reference to a "solid technical analysis"
pertained to the allocations for warheads in the active stockpile,
not to the allocations for reliability replacement warheads and for
the strategic reserve.  As indicated on pages 8 and 9 of this report,
we did not question the technical basis for the allocations of
plutonium for the active stockpile. 

In response to our draft report, the Deputy Assistant to the
Secretary of Defense (Nuclear Matters) stated that DOD disagreed with
our position that the plutonium allocations for reliability
replacement warheads and for the strategic reserve lack a technical
basis.  (See app.  V for DOD's comments.) DOD said that the number of
nuclear warheads for reliability replacement and the quantity of
plutonium for the strategic reserve are documented in the Nuclear
Weapons Stockpile Memorandum and the Long Range Planning Assessment. 
We agree that these documents specify the amounts of plutonium
allocated to these two categories, but these documents do not provide
the underlying technical analysis used to determine these amounts. 

Throughout our review, DOE and DOD officials were unable to
demonstrate an underlying technical basis, using scientific or
engineering methods or data, for the allocations of plutonium for
reliability replacement warheads and for the strategic reserve
plutonium.  These officials told us that the allocations assume a
100-percent failure rate for warheads in the active stockpile.  As
stated, we believe that a technical analysis is needed to support the
reasonableness of this assumption.  Therefore, we did not change the
content of our report in response to this comment.  However, both DOE
and DOD provided clarifying comments, which we incorporated into our
report as appropriate. 


---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :7.1

To review DOE's categorization of plutonium and cost estimates for
managing plutonium, we interviewed DOE officials, reviewed DOE
documents, and analyzed cost data obtained through a survey that we
sent to the eight sites responsible for managing most of DOE's
plutonium inventory.  We conducted our work from June 1996 through
April 1997 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing
standards.  Detailed information about our scope and methodology
appears in appendix III. 

Please contact me at (202) 512-3841 if you or your staff have any
questions.  Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix
VI. 

Sincerely yours,

Victor S.  Rezendes
Director, Energy, Resources,
 and Science Issues


FORMS AND DANGERS OF PLUTONIUM
=========================================================== Appendix I

FORMS OF PLUTONIUM

Plutonium (Pu) is primarily a man-made element, produced by
irradiating uranium in nuclear reactors.  It exists in various forms
and grades and is used in nuclear warheads and as fuel in nuclear
reactors.  Plutonium-239 is fissile and can sustain a nuclear chain
reaction, making this isotope suitable for nuclear weapons. 
Plutonium-240 is more radioactive and generates more heat than
plutonium-239.  The percentage of plutonium-240 in plutonium material
determines whether it is classified as weapons grade (less than 7
percent Pu-240), fuel grade (7 to 19 percent Pu-240), or reactor
grade (more than 19 percent Pu-240).  Spent nuclear fuel, a
by-product of power generation in nuclear reactors, also contains
some plutonium but would require extensive reprocessing to be reused
in a weapon or reactor.  The different forms of plutonium have
varying half-lives--for example, plutonium-239 has a half-life of
about 24,000 years. 

The plutonium that the Department of Energy (DOE) produced is held in
several physical forms, including metals, oxides, solutions,
residues, and scraps.  Most of DOE's plutonium is stored as a metal
because, during the production era, plutonium was recycled and
purified to metal form for use in nuclear warheads.  Plutonium oxide,
a fine powder produced when plutonium metal reacts with oxygen, was
formed when weapons were manufactured or when plutonium metal was
inadvertently exposed to oxygen.  Containers holding acidic and
corrosive plutonium solutions are vulnerable to leakage.  Residues or
scraps, the by-products of past weapons production activities,
generally contain plutonium in concentrations of less than 10
percent.  Throughout the weapons complex, the plutonium in residues
and scraps is mixed with over 100 metric tons of other materials and
waste. 

DANGERS OF PLUTONIUM

Although DOE has ceased to manufacture plutonium for use in nuclear
weapons, the plutonium produced in the past continues to present
hazards.  Because plutonium is highly radioactive, it poses acute
dangers to human health and the environment, as well as to national
security, unless it is properly stored and safeguarded.  Land,
buildings, equipment, and materials contaminated with plutonium also
present environmental hazards that must be cleaned up or contained. 


      HEALTH, SAFETY, AND
      ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS
------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:0.1

When DOE stopped producing nuclear materials, much of its plutonium
was improperly stored, posing health, safety, and environmental
hazards.  If not safely contained and managed, plutonium can be
dangerous to human health, even in extremely small quantities. 
Inhaling a few micrograms of plutonium creates a long-term risk of
lung, liver, and bone cancer.  Inhaling larger doses can cause
immediate lung injuries and death.  The potential for exposure occurs
when containers or packaging fails to fully contain the plutonium. 
Leakage from corroded containers or inadvertent accumulations of
plutonium dust in piping or duct work present hazards, especially in
aging, poorly maintained, or obsolete facilities.  After assessing
the vulnerabilities associated with its storage of plutonium,\20 DOE
began stabilizing, packaging, or repackaging the more unstable
forms--including oxides, solutions, residues, and scraps--to properly
store them, as well as plutonium metals, while they await
disposition. 


--------------------
\20 See DOE's Plutonium Working Group Report on Environmental, Safety
and Health Vulnerabilities Associated With the Department's Plutonium
Storage (Nov.  1994). 


      PROLIFERATION HAZARDS
------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:0.2

Like uranium, plutonium is a key ingredient in nuclear weapons, and
several kilograms suffice to make a nuclear bomb.  According to DOE,
most nations and some terrorist groups would be able to produce
nuclear weapons if they had access to sufficient quantities of
nuclear materials.  Therefore, controls on access to nuclear
materials are the primary technical barrier to nuclear proliferation
in the world today.  Several thefts of weapons-usable nuclear
materials in the former Soviet Union have been confirmed since the
end of the Cold War, leading the Director of the Central Intelligence
Agency to warn that these materials are more available now than ever
before in history. 

To help reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation posed by plutonium
and other nuclear materials, the United States and Russia are working
towards nuclear arms reduction treaties.  Agreements such as the
Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START-I and START-II) require that
weapons be retired from deployed status and their delivery systems be
removed or destroyed.  These treaties do not, however, require that
the nuclear warheads be dismantled or that their parts and materials,
including plutonium, be destroyed.  The United States has
nevertheless removed some weapons from its stockpile, dismantled
their warheads, and stored or disposed of their components and key
nuclear materials. 

In addition, through a "lead and hedge" approach, the United States
is encouraging Russia to reduce both the number of nuclear warheads
in its arsenal and the amount of nuclear material it maintains to
support these warheads.  Specifically, the United States plans to
"lead" the Russians by reducing the U.S.  arsenal of strategic
warheads, as agreed in the START-II treaty.  At the same time, it
plans to "hedge" by maintaining its ability to return to the levels
established under START-I, should the need for additional warheads
arise.  Although the Congress ratified START-II in January 1996, the
Russian parliament has not yet scheduled a vote on it.  Because of
Russia's delay in ratifying START-II, the Department of Defense (DOD)
is evaluating its ability to resume START-I levels of nuclear
warheads in the active stockpile. 


      ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANUP
------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:0.3

Now that DOE is no longer producing plutonium for nuclear weapons, it
is changing its focus to cleaning up the environmental contamination
created by 50 years of production at its facilities.  In its
consolidated financial statements for fiscal year 1996, DOE estimated
that it will spend nearly $229 billion over the next 75 years to
clean up sites where plutonium and other nuclear materials were
fabricated and used to produce nuclear weapons.  DOE has not
determined what portion of these costs can be attributed specifically
to plutonium or plutonium-related activities. 


SCHEDULE FOR IMPLEMENTING THE
DUAL-TRACK CONVERSION STRATEGY
========================================================== Appendix II

Assuming a 1997 start date, DOE estimates the conversion mission will
end in 2023.  DOE's estimate breaks the schedule into four
overlapping activities:  (1) preparing the plutonium for conversion,
(2) immobilizing the plutonium, (3) fabricating mixed oxide (MOX)
fuel, and (4) burning the MOX fuel in reactors.  Figure II.1 shows
the schedule for these four activities. 

   Figure II.1:  DOE's Schedule
   for Implementing its Dual-Track
   Conversion Strategy

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

\a Preoperational activities include research and development and
engineering; licensing, permitting and siting; modifications; and
selecting a utility or utilities to operate the reactor(s) that will
burn the MOX fuel. 

\b The last MOX fuel assembly will achieve the spent fuel standard in
about 2020, although irradiation of the fuel will continue into 2023. 


OBJECTIVES, SCOPE, AND METHODOLOGY
========================================================= Appendix III

Our objectives for this assignment were to (1) review how much
plutonium the United States allocated for national security, how much
was designated as excess, and how DOE determined these amounts; (2)
review DOE's estimates of the current and near-term costs for
managing plutonium; and (3) review DOE's estimates of the long-term
costs for managing plutonium. 

To review DOE's and the Nuclear Weapons Council's (NWC)
categorization of plutonium and any changes that have occurred or are
projected for the future, we interviewed DOE and NWC officials and
gathered and analyzed information from both organizations.  As agreed
with the requester's office, our study did not include DOD's roles
and activities except to the extent that DOD participates in NWC. 
Therefore, although DOD manages the plutonium contained in active
nuclear warheads, we did not include the cost of managing this
plutonium. 

To determine the current and near-term costs of managing DOE's
plutonium, we interviewed officials and gathered and analyzed data
from DOE sites and headquarters.  We conducted a survey of the eight
DOE sites that, according to DOE's 1996 report Plutonium:  The First
50 Years, maintain the majority of DOE's plutonium inventory.  These
sites are Argonne National Laboratory-West, Hanford Site, Idaho
National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Pantex Plant,
Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, and Savannah River Site. 
The survey asked each site to identify its (1) actual costs for
fiscal years 1995 and 1996, (2) budget estimates for fiscal year
1997, and (3) projected cost estimates for fiscal year 1998 through
fiscal year 2002.  All cost estimates were adjusted to constant 1996
dollars.  We also included each site's share of the program oversight
costs incurred by DOE headquarters and operations offices, applying
DOE's own standard formula (4.3 percent plus local adjustments) to
the cost estimate provided by each site. 

DOE's budget and accounting systems do not separately collect or
report plutonium-specific costs.  Therefore, DOE provided its "best
estimates" of plutonium-related costs, based on available cost
information as well as officials' technical expertise and
professional judgment.  We could not readily verify the data's
accuracy, as we would have done had the data been derived from a
budget and accounting system.  However, we discussed our
data-gathering approach with cognizant DOE officials, coordinated our
request for data through the Office of the Chief Financial Officer,
and provided our summarized cost data to DOE officials, who agreed
that the data-gathering approach was reasonable and that the data
provided by the field sites were probably the best that could be
obtained under the circumstances.  Similarly, officials from the
Congressional Research Service and Congressional Budget Office
reviewed the cost data and suggested no changes. 

To obtain information on the long-term costs of managing plutonium,
we interviewed DOE officials and examined various DOE documents,
including the Record of Decision for the Storage and Disposition of
Weapons-Usable Fissile Materials Final Programmatic Environmental
Impact Statement and documents prepared to support it.  In addition,
we reviewed DOE's consolidated financial statements for fiscal year
1996. 

We conducted our review between June 1996 and April 1997 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix IV
COMMENTS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF
ENERGY
========================================================= Appendix III



(See figure in printed edition.)




(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix V
COMMENTS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF
DEFENSE
========================================================= Appendix III


MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS REPORT
========================================================== Appendix VI

RESOURCES, COMMUNITY, AND ECONOMIC
DEVELOPMENT DIVISION

Allen Li
Ronald J.  Guthrie
Pamela J.  Timmerman
Christopher M.  Pacheco
Lisa P.  Gardner
Pamela K.  Tumler
Elizabeth R.  Eisenstadt



RELATED GAO PRODUCTS
============================================================ Chapter 0

Department of Energy Contract Management (GAO/HR-97-13, Feb.  1997). 

Nuclear Waste:  Impediments to Completing the Yucca Mountain
Repository Project (GAO/RCED-97-30, Jan.  17, 1997). 

Nuclear Waste:  Uncertainties About Opening Waste Isolation Pilot
Plant (GAO/RCED-96-146, July 16, 1996). 

Nuclear Waste:  Greater Use of Removal Actions Could Cut Time and
Cost for Cleanups (GAO/RCED-96-124, May 23, 1996). 

Energy Downsizing:  While DOE is Achieving Budget Cuts, It Is Too
Soon to Gauge Effects (GAO/RCED-96-154, May 13, 1996). 

Nuclear Weapons:  Status of DOE's Nuclear Stockpile Surveillance
Program (GAO/T-RCED-96-100, Mar.  13, 1996). 

Nuclear Nonproliferation:  U.S.  Efforts to Help Newly Independent
States Improve Their Nuclear Material Controls
(GAO/T-NSIAD/RCED-96-118, Mar.  13, 1996). 

Nuclear Nonproliferation:  Status of U.S.  Efforts to Improve Nuclear
Material Controls in Newly Independent States (GAO/NSIAD/RCED-96-89,
Mar.  8, 1996). 

Nuclear Nonproliferation:  Concerns With the U.S.  International
Nuclear Materials Tracking System (GAO/T-RCED/AIMD-96-91, Feb.  28,
1996). 

Nuclear Waste:  Management and Technical Problems Continue to Delay
Characterizing Hanford's Tank Waste (GAO/RCED-96-56, Jan.  26, 1996). 

Nuclear Safety:  Concerns With Nuclear Facilities and Other Sources
of Radiation in the Former Soviet Union (GAO/RCED-96-4, Nov.  7,
1995). 

Nuclear Waste:  Issues Affecting the Opening of DOE's Waste Isolation
Pilot Plant (GAO/T-RCED-95-254, July 21, 1995). 

Department of Energy:  Savings From Deactivating Facilities Can Be
Better Estimated (GAO/RCED-95-183, July 7, 1995). 

Nuclear Nonproliferation:  Information on Nuclear Exports Controlled
by U.S.-EURATOM Agreement (GAO/RCED-95-168, June 16, 1995). 

Nuclear Facility Cleanup:  Centralized Contracting of Laboratory
Analysis Would Produce Budgetary Savings (GAO/RCED-95-118, May 8,
1995). 

Nuclear Materials:  Plutonium Storage at DOE's Rocky Flats Plant
(GAO/RCED-95-49, Dec.  29, 1994). 

Nuclear Waste:  Change in Test Strategy Sound, but DOE Overstated
Savings (GAO/RCED-95-44, Dec.  27, 1994). 

Nuclear Waste:  DOE's Management and Organization of the Nevada
Repository Project (GAO/RCED-95-27, Dec.  23, 1994). 

Nuclear Waste:  Comprehensive Review of the Disposal Program Is
Needed (GAO/RCED-94-299, Sept.  27, 1994). 

Nuclear Waste:  Yucca Mountain Project Behind Schedule and Facing
Major Scientific Uncertainties (GAO/RCED-93-124, May 21, 1993). 


*** End of document. ***