oversight

Nuclear Nonproliferation: DOE Action Needed to Ensure Continued Recovery of Unwanted Sealed Radioactive Sources

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-04-15.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

             United States General Accounting Office

GAO          Report to the Ranking Minority
             Member, Subcommittee on Financial
             Management, the Budget, and
             International Security, Committee on
             Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate
April 2003
             NUCLEAR
             NONPROLIFERATION
             DOE Action Needed to
             Ensure Continued
             Recovery of
             Unwanted Sealed
             Radioactive Sources




GAO-03-483
                                               April 2003


                                               NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION

                                               DOE Action Needed to Ensure Continued
Highlights of GAO-03-483, a report to the      Recovery of Unwanted Sealed
Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee
on Financial Management, the Budget,           Radioactive Sources
and International Security, Committee on
Governmental Affairs, United States
Senate




Potentially dangerous sealed                   The exact number of unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources in the
sources containing greater-than-               United States is unknown, but DOE estimates it will recover about 14,300
Class-C radioactive material pose a            such sources by the end of fiscal year 2010, at a total cost of about
threat to national security because            $69 million. DOE’s estimate of the number of sealed sources it will recover
terrorists could use them to make              was based on three assumptions—that a permanent disposal facility would
“dirty bombs.” Public Law 99-240
requires the Department of Energy
                                               be available by fiscal year 2007; that the Off-Site Source Recovery Project’s
(DOE) provide a facility for                   recovery operations would be phased out from fiscal years 2007 through
disposing of unwanted sources.                 2010; and that, after fiscal year 2010, all sealed sources would be sent
Because DOE has no disposal                    directly to a disposal facility and the project would cease operations.
facility for these sources, its Off-
Site Source Recovery Project is                Through February 2003, DOE’s Off-Site Source Recovery Project had
recovering and temporarily storing             recovered more than 5,000 greater-than-Class-C sealed sources from about
them at Los Alamos, New Mexico.                160 sites across the United States; however, the project faces three problems
GAO was asked to determine (1)                 that could hinder future recovery efforts. First, the project is not a priority
the number of unwanted sealed                  with DOE’s Office of Environmental Management, because, according to
sources that DOE plans to recover              office officials, the project does not conform with the mission of the office.
through 2010 and the estimated
cost, (2) the status of recovery
                                               The project did not receive full funding, even after September 11, 2001,
efforts and any problems that DOE              because of the Office of Environmental Management’s other higher priority
may face, and (3) the status of                projects, and the office’s current budget specifies future annual funding
DOE’s efforts to provide a disposal            levels that, according to project officials, would be insufficient to enable the
facility for these sealed sources.             project to recover additional sealed sources. Second, DOE cannot recover
                                               any additional sealed sources containing plutonium-239 because the project
                                               has already run out of space at the Los Alamos National Laboratory that
                                               meets DOE’s higher security standards for storing these sources. Third,
GAO recommends that the                        DOE has not approved a means for storing sealed sources containing
Secretary of Energy (1) determine              strontium-90 and cesium-137 until a permanent disposal facility is available.
whether the priority given to the
project is commensurate with the
                                               As of February 2003, more than 17 years after the enactment of Public Law
threat these sources pose; (2)
ensure adequate resources are                  99-240, DOE had not made progress toward providing for the permanent
devoted to the project; (3) take               disposal of greater-than-Class-C radioactive sealed sources, as required by
immediate action to provide space              the act. Specifically, DOE had not assigned responsibility to an office within
to store sealed sources containing             DOE to begin developing such a facility. Also, according to DOE officials,
plutonium-239, strontium-90, and               DOE lacks a plan for ensuring the continued recovery of sealed sources in
cesium-137; (4) initiate the process           the likely event that the disposal facility is delayed beyond fiscal year 2007.
to develop a permanent disposal
facility for greater-than-Class-C              Example of a Radioactive Sealed Source That Contains Americium-241
radioactive waste; and (5) develop
a plan to ensure the continued
recovery of greater-than-Class-C
waste until a disposal facility is
available. DOE did not comment
on our recommendations.
www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-483.

To view the full report, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Gene Aloise,
202-512-3841, aloisee@gao.gov.
Contents


Letter                                                                                   1
              Results in Brief                                                           3
              Background                                                                 5
              The Exact Number of Unwanted Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed
                Sources Is Unknown, but DOE Plans to Recover About 14,000
                Sealed Sources by the End of Fiscal Year 2010 at an Estimated
                Cost of About $69 Million                                                9
              DOE Has Recovered a Large Number of Sources, but Unresolved
                Problems Could Hinder Future Recovery Efforts                          13
              DOE Has Not Made Progress toward Providing a Permanent
                Disposal Facility                                                      25
              Conclusions                                                              28
              Recommendations for Executive Action                                     29
              Agency Comments                                                          29
              Scope and Methodology                                                    30

Appendix I    Sections 1, 2, and 3 of the Low-Level Radioactive
              Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985, Public Law
              99-240                                                                   33



Appendix II   Comments from the Department of Energy                                   37



Tables
              Table 1: Estimated Number of Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed
                       Sources DOE Plans to Recover Annually, Fiscal Years 1999
                       through 2010                                                    11
              Table 2: Number of Each Type of Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed
                       Source that DOE Plans to Recover by the End of Fiscal
                       Year 2010                                                       12
              Table 3: Estimated Annual Cost to Complete the Recovery of
                       14,309 Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Sources, Fiscal Years
                       2002 through 2011                                               12
              Table 4: Estimated Total Cost to Complete Remaining Recovery
                       and Closeout Activities, as of Fiscal Year 2002                 13
              Table 5: Number of Each Type of Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed
                       Source Recovered and Associated Grams and Curies of
                       Radioactive Material, as of February 2003                       14



              Page i                                   GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
          Table 6: Number of Each Type of Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed
                   Source Awaiting Recovery and Associated Number of
                   Holders and Grams and Curies of Radioactive Material, as
                   of February 2003                                                                 17


Figures
          Figure 1: The Off-Site Source Recovery Project’s Process for
                   Recovering Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Sources                                    7
          Figure 2: Photograph of a Structure at the Los Alamos National
                   Laboratory in Which Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Sources
                   Recovered by the Off-Site Source Recovery Project Are
                   Stored as Waste                                                                   8
          Figure 3: Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Sources Recovered by State,
                   as of February 2003                                                              16
          Figure 4: Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Sources in Need of
                   Recovery by State, as of February 2003                                           19




          Abbreviations

          DOE               Department of Energy
          NEPA              National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
          NRC               Nuclear Regulatory Commission



          This is a work of the U.S. Government and is not subject to copyright protection in the
          United States. It may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further
          permission from GAO. It may contain copyrighted graphics, images or other materials.
          Permission from the copyright holder may be necessary should you wish to reproduce
          copyrighted materials separately from GAO’s product.




          Page ii                                             GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   April 15, 2003

                                   The Honorable Daniel K. Akaka
                                   Ranking Minority Member
                                   Subcommittee on Financial Management,
                                    the Budget, and International Security
                                   Committee on Governmental Affairs
                                   United States Senate

                                   Dear Senator Akaka:

                                   Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there has been a great
                                   deal of concern about the control of sealed sources containing radioactive
                                   material used in medicine, agriculture, research, and industry throughout
                                   the United States. The radioactive material in these sealed sources is
                                   encapsulated, or sealed, in metal—such as stainless steel, titanium, or
                                   platinum—to prevent its dispersal. The small size and portability of the
                                   sealed sources make them susceptible to misuse, improper disposal, and
                                   theft. If these sealed sources fell into the hands of terrorists, they could be
                                   used as simple and crude but potentially dangerous radiological weapons,
                                   commonly called dirty bombs. In general, a dirty bomb is produced by
                                   packaging explosives, such as dynamite, with radioactive material, which
                                   would be dispersed when the bomb went off. The radioactive material
                                   dispersed—depending on the type, form (e.g., solid or powder), amount,
                                   and concentration—could cause radiation sickness for people nearby as
                                   well as the serious economic costs and social disruption associated with
                                   the evacuation and subsequent cleanup of the contaminated area.

                                   Certain sealed sources are considered particularly attractive for potential
                                   use in producing dirty bombs because, among other things, they contain
                                   more concentrated amounts of nuclear material known as “greater-than-
                                   Class-C material”—typically americium-241, cesium-137, plutonium-238,




                                   Page 1                                       GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
plutonium-239, and strontium-90.1 Applications of greater-than-Class-C
sealed sources include portable and fixed gauges used in commercial
manufacturing processes, gauges used by the construction industry for
testing the moisture content of soil, medical pacemakers, medical
diagnostics and treatments, gauges used for petroleum exploration, and
government and private research and development.

The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985, Public
Law 99-240, requires the Department of Energy (DOE) to provide a facility
for disposing of all greater-than-Class-C radioactive waste, including
greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that are no longer wanted by their
owners, but DOE has not yet developed a disposal facility (see app. I).
Until a disposal facility is available, DOE created the Off-Site Source
Recovery Project, which, since fiscal year 1999, has been recovering
unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources from their owners and
temporarily storing them at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los
Alamos, New Mexico. Currently, owners of unwanted greater-than-Class-C
sealed sources must continue to store and secure their sources on their
premises until either DOE recovers and temporarily stores them or a
disposal facility becomes available. Once a permanent disposal facility
becomes available, source holders will be able to send their sources
directly to the facility, and the sources that DOE is storing at Los Alamos
will be transferred to the facility for permanent disposal.

To assess DOE’s progress toward improving its control of greater-than-
Class-C sealed sources, you asked us to determine (1) the number of
greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that are unwanted, the number that
DOE plans to recover and dispose of through 2010, and the estimated cost
and schedule to recover and temporarily store these sources until a
permanent disposal facility is available; (2) the status of recovery efforts to
date and any problems that DOE may face in recovering and temporarily
storing greater-than-Class-C sealed sources; and (3) the status of DOE’s


1
  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission classifies low-level radioactive waste (i.e., waste not
specifically classified as high-level waste, such as used fuel rods from nuclear power
plants) as A, B, or C for the purpose of disposal. Radioactive waste is classified by type of
radionuclide (e.g., americium-241) and concentration of radioactivity (often measured in
curies per gram). Class A, B, and C radioactive wastes must meet progressively more
stringent requirements for disposal. Class A, B, and C wastes (e.g., exit signs containing
tritium and contaminated soil or lab equipment) generally can be disposed of at existing
commercial disposal facilities. Wastes that exceed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s
criteria for Class C, known as greater-than-Class-C wastes, generally cannot be disposed of
at existing facilities.




Page 2                                               GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
                   efforts to meet the requirements of Public Law 99-240 to provide long-term
                   disposal for greater-than-Class-C radioactive waste. To address these
                   objectives, we, among other things, visited the Off-Site Source Recovery
                   Project office at the Los Alamos National Laboratory to observe the
                   storage facilities and interview project officials, reviewed studies
                   estimating the number of greater-than-Class-C sealed sources and DOE’s
                   budget documents, and analyzed data on the progress of recovery efforts.
                   This report is the first of three we are preparing at your request to examine
                   efforts to control sealed radiological sources. Forthcoming reports will
                   review domestic and international efforts to control these sources beyond
                   those of the Off-Site Source Recovery Project.


                   The exact number of unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources is
Results in Brief   unknown but DOE’s Off-Site Source Recovery Project officials estimate
                   they will recover about 14,300 unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed
                   sources by the end of fiscal year 2010, at an estimated total cost of about
                   $69 million. These officials told us that the number of unwanted greater-
                   than-Class-C sealed sources that would be recovered is a rough estimate,
                   which was derived by reviewing, among other information, studies
                   completed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and DOE’s Idaho
                   National Engineering Laboratory and information provided by sealed
                   source manufacturers. Although the Idaho National Engineering
                   Laboratory study estimated that there currently could be about 250,000 to
                   500,000 greater-than-Class-C sealed sources in the United States, the actual
                   number of greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that are no longer wanted
                   is not known because no one kept track of this information. The estimate
                   of the number of greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that DOE’s project
                   will recover is based on three assumptions—that a permanent disposal
                   facility for greater-than-Class-C sealed sources will be available by fiscal
                   year 2007; that the Off-Site Source Recovery Project will continue to
                   recover sources from certain holders of sources during a transition period
                   from fiscal year 2007 through fiscal year 2010; and that, after fiscal year
                   2010, all greater-than-Class-C sealed sources will be sent directly to the
                   disposal facility and the Off-Site Source Recovery Project will cease
                   operations.

                   As of February 2003, DOE’s Off-Site Source Recovery Project had
                   recovered more than 5,000 greater-than-Class-C sealed sources from about
                   160 sites across the United States; however, the project faces three
                   problems that could hinder future recovery efforts. These problems
                   include the questionable long-term commitment of DOE’s Office of
                   Environmental Management to the project, inadequate storage capacity


                   Page 3                                      GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
that meets the higher security needs of sealed sources containing
plutonium-239, and the lack of a means for temporarily storing sealed
sources containing strontium-90 and cesium-137. With regard to the first
problem, officials from DOE’s Office of Environmental Management,
which is responsible for the Off-Site Source Recovery Project, told us that
they would like the responsibility for the project to be placed in another
DOE office because the mission of the project is inconsistent with the
mission of the Office of Environmental Management. They also told us that
the project did not receive full funding, even after September 11, 2001,
because of other higher priority projects, and current Office of
Environmental Management budget documents specify future annual
funding levels that, according to project officials, would limit the project’s
ability to recover additional greater-than-Class-C sealed sources. Without
funding available to the Off-Site Source Recovery Project to recover
additional sources, owners of unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed
sources will be forced to store and secure their sources on their premises
until a disposal facility is available.

Further, the Off-Site Source Recovery Project cannot recover any
additional greater-than-Class-C sealed sources containing plutonium-239
because there is no more space at the Los Alamos National Laboratory
that meets DOE’s security standards for storing these sources. As a result,
about 150 holders of unwanted sources containing plutonium-239, most of
which are universities, must retain them and keep them properly secured
until space becomes available. Although this nuclear material requires
special security measures because of its potential for use in a crude
nuclear bomb, two holders of these sources have told us of instances in
which doors to the rooms containing unwanted greater-than-Class-C
sealed sources were left unlocked and open, and most holders expressed
their desire to dispose of the sources as quickly as possible. In addition,
DOE has not approved a means for temporarily storing strontium-90 and
cesium-137 at a DOE facility until a permanent disposal facility is
developed as DOE has done for the other types of radioactive materials
contained in the sealed sources it needs to recover. According to DOE, it
recognizes these problems and is developing options to resolve them. Our
report recommends that DOE determine whether the priority that it is
giving the project is commensurate with the risks these sealed sources
pose, ensure adequate resources are devoted to the project, and provide,
as soon as possible, storage space for sealed sources containing
plutonium-239, strontium-90, and cesium-137 with the appropriate level of
security.




Page 4                                      GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
             As of February 2003, DOE’s Office of Environmental Management had not
             made progress toward providing for the permanent disposal of greater-
             than-Class-C radioactive waste, and it is unlikely to provide such a facility
             by fiscal year 2007, as previously assumed, because it is not a priority with
             the office. Specifically, the office had not begun the first step in developing
             a disposal facility—completing an appropriate analysis as required by the
             National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and implementing regulations,
             which would likely be an Environmental Impact Statement. Officials from
             DOE’s Office of Environmental Management told us that the office had
             provided funding for fiscal years 2002 and 2003 to develop such an
             analysis, but that after the office reviewed the budget in February 2002, it
             reallocated these funds to other priorities. These officials also told us that
             DOE is considering moving the responsibility for developing the analysis
             to another office within DOE, and they anticipate that this decision will be
             made some time in fiscal year 2003. In an Environmental Impact
             Statement, which Office of Environmental Management officials say could
             take 2 years to develop, DOE could propose that either a new disposal
             facility be built or an existing facility be used. If a new facility were
             decided upon, developing it could take at least 7 years, according to DOE’s
             estimates. If an existing facility were selected, disposal services could be
             provided sooner, depending upon the availability of the facility. For
             example, DOE has been exploring the possibility of sending greater-than-
             Class-C sealed sources containing plutonium-239 to an existing facility, its
             Waste Isolation Pilot Plant located in Carlsbad, New Mexico, but it
             remains uncertain when or if this will be possible. Finally, according to
             Office of Environmental Management officials, DOE does not have a plan
             for recovering greater-than-Class-C sealed sources in the event that the
             disposal facility is delayed. Our report recommends that DOE initiate the
             process to provide a permanent disposal facility for greater-than-Class-C
             waste, develop a plan to help manage this process, and develop a plan to
             ensure the continued recovery and storage of greater-than-Class-C sealed
             sources in the likely event that availability of the disposal facility is
             delayed beyond fiscal year 2007.


             The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulates medical, industrial,
Background   and research uses of radioactive materials through a combination of
             activities, including regulatory requirements; licensing; and safety
             oversight, including inspection and enforcement. NRC issues licenses for
             the ownership of radioactive material and for the possession and use of
             this material in certain items, such as sealed sources. NRC licensees
             include medical, industrial, and academic organizations. In addition, NRC
             has delegated its licensing authority to 32 states, called “agreement states.”


             Page 5                                       GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
These agreement states administer 76 percent of the licensees while NRC
administers the remainder of the licensees.

In the 1970s, DOE began to recover unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed
sources containing plutonium-239. Through 1998, DOE recovered more
than 1,300 such sealed sources, mainly from universities, and destroyed
them by chemical processing. During this time, the Congress also enacted
the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985, Public
Law 99-240, which requires the Department of Energy (DOE) to provide a
facility for disposing of all greater-than-Class-C radioactive waste,
including all greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that are no longer wanted
by their owners. However, DOE has not yet developed such a facility.
Although DOE had no formal program to accept unwanted greater-than-
Class-C sealed sources from their owners, in 1992, the agency established
a working agreement with NRC to address greater-than-Class-C sealed
sources that might cause potential health and safety problems. Between
1993 and 1999, DOE recovered over 40 greater-than-Class-C sealed sources
at the request of NRC. By 1999, however, DOE determined that chemically
processing greater-than-Class-C sealed sources was expensive, exposed
laboratory workers involved in the chemical processing to unacceptable
doses of radioactivity, and created problematic waste that needed
disposal. In addition, DOE lacked sufficient capacity to process the
growing numbers of greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that were being
reported as unwanted. As a result, DOE determined in 1999 that chemical
processing should be discontinued. That same year, DOE’s Office of
Environmental Management, whose main mission is to clean up DOE’s
contaminated weapons development facilities that DOE plans to close,
created the Off-Site Source Recovery Project to recover and temporarily
store unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources until a disposal facility
was available. The Office of Environmental Management funds and
provides oversight and direction to the project; DOE’s National Nuclear
Security Administration Service Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico,
provides project oversight and direction for the Los Alamos National
Laboratory; and the University of California conducts planning and
recovery operations for DOE at Los Alamos.

The greater-than-Class-C sealed source recovery process begins when a
holder of a source notifies the project that it has no further use for its
source or when NRC or state regulators notify the project that a source
needs to be recovered because it might cause a potential health or safety
problem (see fig. 1).




Page 6                                     GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
Figure 1: The Off-Site Source Recovery Project’s Process for Recovering Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Sources




Source: DOE.



                                        Project officials obtain extensive descriptive information about the source,
                                        maintain the information in a database, and work with NRC to use the
                                        information to prioritize recoveries. Once a decision has been made to
                                        recover a greater-than-Class-C sealed source, the recovery effort can occur
                                        in one of three ways: (1) the source holder packages and ships the source
                                        to the Los Alamos National Laboratory; (2) project staff travel to the
                                        source’s location to characterize, package, and ship the source to Los
                                        Alamos; or (3) project subcontractors accomplish the required work for
                                        the project. In any of these cases, the sources may be shipped directly to
                                        the Los Alamos National Laboratory for receipt and storage, or they may


                                        Page 7                                        GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
first be shipped to a subcontractor facility where they are consolidated
and stored until a larger shipment to Los Alamos is prepared. Greater-
than-Class-C sealed sources sent to the Los Alamos National Laboratory
are either stored as nuclear material under appropriate security or, if
security requirements are waived, may be stored as waste in some of the
same structures as other radioactive waste stored by the laboratory (see
fig. 2).

Figure 2: Photograph of a Structure at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in
Which Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Sources Recovered by the Off-Site Source
Recovery Project Are Stored as Waste




At the request of the Secretary of Energy and NRC Chairman in June 2002,
the DOE/NRC Interagency Working Group on Radiological Dispersal
Devices was convened to identify any concerns with the nation’s ability to
adequately protect nuclear materials, including radiological sources, that
can be used in a radiological dispersal device, or dirty bomb. The working
group was tasked to provide a report to the Secretary of Energy and NRC
Chairman detailing recommendations for protecting radioactive materials
of concern. The objectives of the working group were to identify those
radioactive materials of concern for use as a radiological dispersal device,
examine the options for tracking these materials in a national database
system, assess potential technologies for tagging these materials for
tracking purposes, and identify actions needed to ensure that sources are
secure and that storage and disposal is available for unsecured, excess,



Page 8                                        GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
                           and unwanted sources. The report provides recommendations that DOE
                           and NRC can pursue to enhance control of materials that could be used in
                           radiological dispersal devices. These include coordination with the
                           Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to establish
                           national policies for defining threats and radiological dispersal device
                           protection levels, implementing a national source tracking system, and
                           developing national strategies for recovering and disposing of unsecured
                           sources. As of February 2003, the report was still in draft.


                           Neither DOE nor any other government agency has kept track of the
The Exact Number of        number of greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that are no longer wanted;
Unwanted Greater-          therefore, this number is not known with certainty. Also, DOE created the
                           Off-Site Source Recovery Project to enable DOE to comply with Public
Than-Class-C Sealed        Law 99-240 until a disposal facility became available; hence, the project
Sources Is Unknown,        was never envisioned as a permanent solution. As a result, before DOE
                           could estimate the number of greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that the
but DOE Plans to           project would recover, it had to estimate how long the project would be in
Recover About 14,000       operation. In fiscal year 2002, DOE estimated that the Off-Site Source
Sealed Sources by the      Recovery Project would operate from fiscal years 1999 through 2010 and,
                           during that time frame, the project would recover and temporarily store
End of Fiscal Year         14,309 unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources.2 DOE also estimated
2010 at an Estimated       the total cost to complete the planned recovery effort at $69.3 million.

Cost of About
$69 Million

DOE’s Estimate of How      To develop its estimate of the number of unwanted greater-than-Class-C
Long the Off-Site Source   sealed sources it planned to recover, DOE first determined how long the
Recovery Project Will      Off-Site Source Recovery Project would operate. Prior to 1999, DOE’s
                           activity was limited to recovering and destroying unwanted greater-than-
Operate and How Many       Class-C sealed sources. At the time, DOE was processing and destroying
Sealed Sources DOE Plans   up to 100 sealed sources per year. According to a project official, the rate
to Recover                 at which DOE estimated it could process and destroy sealed sources
                           played a key role in determining the time frame for Off-Site Source
                           Recovery Project operations. According to this official, prior to 1999, DOE
                           planned to increase its processing capability to about 400 sealed sources


                           2
                               As of February 2003, DOE had not modified these estimates.




                           Page 9                                               GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
annually, and in 1999, DOE estimated that a backlog of about 4,000 to
5,000 unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources existed. As a result,
DOE set the time frame for the Off-Site Source Recovery Project at
12 years (fiscal year 1999 through fiscal year 2010), which was
approximately the amount of time DOE estimated it would take to manage
the existing backlog. Although DOE plans to store the sources it recovers
instead of destroying them, the time frame for the project has remained
the same.

DOE then estimated the number of greater-than-Class-C sealed sources
that would become unwanted from fiscal year 1999 through fiscal year
2010. To do this, DOE officials reviewed, among other information, its
preliminary database of about 3,000 unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed
sources, discussions with representatives from the sealed source industry,
and past studies by NRC and DOE’s Idaho National Engineering
Laboratory, which included surveys of source holders and manufacturers
conducted by NRC and state regulatory agencies.3 The study by the Idaho
National Engineering Laboratory, completed in 1994 at the request of
DOE, estimated that there could be about 250,000 to 500,000 greater-than-
Class-C sealed sources currently in the United States and as many as
24,000 new greater-than-Class-C sealed sources are being produced each
year. According to a project official, the estimate of how many of these
sealed sources will become unwanted during the time period that the Off-
Site Source Recovery Project is in operation represents a best guess based
on all of the information available.

As such, DOE officials estimated that about 18,000 greater-than-Class-C
sealed sources would become unwanted from fiscal years 1999 through
2010. DOE initially developed a plan detailing how many of the 18,000
unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources it planned to recover each
fiscal year. However, DOE later modified the plan to recover 14,309
unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources on the basis of three key
assumptions: (1) that a permanent disposal facility for the sources would
be available by fiscal year 2007; (2) that the Off-Site Source Recovery
Project would continue to recover sources from certain holders of sources




3
 Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Above Class C Source/Device Inventory Survey
(Washington, D.C.: Nov. 1989) and Idaho National Engineering Laboratory,
Characterization of Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Sources, Volumes 1, 2, and 3,
DOE/LLW-163 (Idaho Falls, Idaho: Sept. 1994).




Page 10                                         GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
                                       during a transition period from fiscal year 2007 through fiscal year 2010;4
                                       and (3) that after fiscal year 2010, all greater-than-Class-C sealed sources
                                       would be shipped by their owners to the disposal facility and the Off-Site
                                       Source Recovery Project would cease operations.5 Table 1 shows DOE’s
                                       plan for recovering 14,309 unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources
                                       through the end of fiscal year 2010.

Table 1: Estimated Number of Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Sources DOE Plans to Recover Annually, Fiscal Years 1999
through 2010

                                                 Fiscal years
                                                                                                                             Total
                                                                                                                         number of
 1999          2000   2001    2002     2003      2004       2005       2006        2007       2008       2009       2010   sources
 53              39   2,915   1,325    2,130     2,470      2,332      1,680        675        412        203         75    14,309
Source: DOE.

                                       Note: GAO’s presentation of DOE’s data.


                                       According to DOE’s estimates, about 85 percent of the 14,309 greater-than-
                                       Class-C sealed sources that the project plans to recover would contain
                                       americium-241, with the remainder containing plutonium-238,
                                       plutonium-239, and various other radioactive materials (see table 2). DOE
                                       did not specify the number of sealed sources containing cesium-137 or
                                       strontium-90 that it planned to recover.




                                       4
                                         According to a project official, DOE assumed that, based on past experience, owners of
                                       small numbers of unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources initially might have
                                       difficulty shipping their sources directly to a disposal facility without the assistance of the
                                       Off-Source Recovery Project. DOE assumed that by the end of the transition period these
                                       difficulties would be resolved.
                                       5
                                        At 14,309, the number of greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that DOE plans to recover
                                       appears more precise than it is because DOE reduced the number of sealed sources it
                                       initially planned to recover during the transition years, fiscal years 2007 through 2010, by a
                                       certain percentage each year.




                                       Page 11                                                GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
                                        Table 2: Number of Each Type of Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Source that DOE
                                        Plans to Recover by the End of Fiscal Year 2010

                                            Type of greater-than-                                                     Number of sources
                                            Class-C sealed source                                                    DOE plans to recover
                                            Americium-241                                                                          12,176
                                            Plutonium-238                                                                           1,722
                                            Plutonium-239                                                                             364
                                            Other                                                                                      47
                                            Total                                                                                  14,309
                                        Source: DOE.

                                        Note: GAO’s analysis of DOE’s data.




DOE Estimates the Total                 In fiscal year 2002, DOE estimated that it would cost about $56.5 million to
Cost to Recover 14,309                  complete the recovery of 14,309 greater-than-Class-C sealed sources from
Sealed Sources at                       fiscal years 2002 through 2011 (see table 3).6 In addition, since DOE had
                                        already spent about $12.7 million on recovery activities from fiscal years
$69.3 Million                           1999 through 2001, DOE estimated the total cost to recover the 14,309
                                        sealed sources at about $69.3 million.7

Table 3: Estimated Annual Cost to Complete the Recovery of 14,309 Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Sources, Fiscal Years 2002
through 2011

 (Dollars in millions)
                                                  Fiscal years
                                                                                                                               Total cost to
                                                                                                                                  complete
 2002              2003    2004      2005          2006        2007          2008          2009          2010         2011a       activities
 $5.1               $7.1    $6.7      $8.7         $8.0         $6.7          $4.9          $4.4          $4.5         $0.4           $56.5
Source: DOE.

                                        Note: GAO’s presentation of DOE’s data.
                                        a
                                        The $400,000 cost estimated for fiscal year 2011 is for project closeout activities.




                                        6
                                         Although DOE planned to cease project operations by the end of fiscal year 2010, DOE
                                        planned project closeout activities for fiscal year 2011. As of February 2003, DOE had not
                                        changed its estimate of the cost to complete the planned recovery activities.
                                        7
                                         DOE’s $56.5 million estimate of the cost to complete the recovery of 14,309 greater-than-
                                        Class-C sealed sources and the $12.7 million that DOE had spent from fiscal years 1999
                                        through 2001 do not add to $69.3 million because of rounding.




                                        Page 12                                                    GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
                      Table 4 shows how DOE plans to spend the $56.5 million the agency
                      estimates it will need to complete remaining project activities.

                      Table 4: Estimated Total Cost to Complete Remaining Recovery and Closeout
                      Activities, as of Fiscal Year 2002

                       (Dollars in millions)
                                                                                                       Estimated
                       Activity                                                                              cost
                       Recovering, inspecting, and storing greater-than-Class-C sealed                      $24.2
                       sources, including planning recoveries, maintaining contracts with
                       subcontractors, and preparing waste for future permanent disposal
                       Upgrading equipment at Los Alamos and designing, testing, and                          9.0
                       acquiring tools and containers for packaging, transporting, and storing
                       greater-than-Class-C sealed sources
                       Conducting other activities supporting project operations, including                 11.2
                       overseeing and controlling the quality of project performance, complying
                       with applicable regulations and requirements, maintaining project data,
                       training staff, disseminating information, and paying the project’s share
                       of the costs associated with the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s
                       management and support staff
                       Conducting activities related to planning a disposal facility and                    12.1
                       transitioning project operations to this facility, including facilitating the
                       recovery of nuclear material leased to federal agencies and universities,
                       characterizing and certifying greater-than-Class-C waste stored at Los
                       Alamos, transferring the waste to a disposal facility, and closing out
                       project operations
                       Total estimated cost to complete remaining recovery and closeout                    $56.5
                       activities
                      Source: DOE.

                      Note: GAO’s analysis of DOE’s data.




                      As of February 2003, DOE’s Off-Site Source Recovery Project had
DOE Has Recovered a   recovered 5,294 unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources, but the
Large Number of       project faces three problems that could hinder future recovery efforts.
                      These problems include the questionable long-term commitment of DOE’s
Sources, but          Office of Environmental Management to the project, the lack of storage
Unresolved Problems   capacity needed to allow the recovery of sealed sources containing
                      plutonium-239, and the lack of an approved means for temporarily storing
Could Hinder Future   sealed sources containing strontium-90 and cesium-137.
Recovery Efforts




                      Page 13                                                GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
The Off-Site Source        As of February 2003, the Off-Site Source Recovery Project had identified
Recovery Project Has       and recovered 5,294 unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources, and
Recovered a Large Number   owners of an additional 4,380 greater-than-Class-C sealed sources had
                           reported to DOE that they no longer wanted their sources, but DOE had
of Unwanted Greater-       not yet recovered them. According to DOE’s estimates, these 4,380 sealed
Than-Class-C Sealed        sources and another 4,635 greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that DOE
Sources                    estimates are either currently in use or not yet reported as unwanted will
                           need to be recovered by the end of fiscal year 2010.

                           About 65 percent of the 5,294 unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed
                           sources that DOE had recovered contained the radioactive material
                           americium-241, either alone or in combination with cesium-137, and about
                           35 percent of the sources recovered contained plutonium-238 (see table 5).
                           As table 5 shows, DOE had recovered 15 of the 364 sealed sources
                           containing plutonium-239 it planned to recover before running out of
                           storage capacity and had recovered no sealed sources containing
                           strontium-90. All together, the project has secured almost 2 kilograms of
                           unwanted radioactive material.

                           Table 5: Number of Each Type of Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Source Recovered
                           and Associated Grams and Curies of Radioactive Material, as of February 2003

                               Type of greater-              Number of Number of grams of             Number of curies
                               than-Class-C                    sources radioactive material              of radioactive
                               sealed source                 recovered           recovered           material recovered
                               Americium-241                     3,004                 730                        2,513
                               Americium-241 and                   411                    5                          24
                               Cesium-137
                               Curium-244                              2              Less than 1              Less than 1
                               Plutonium-238                       1,862                      489                    7,235
                               Plutonium-239                          15                      696                       44
                                                                        a
                               Total                              5,294                     1,920                    9,816
                           Source: DOE.

                           Note: GAO’s analysis of DOE’s data.
                           a
                           Total includes 16 greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that DOE recovered before Off-Site Source
                           Recovery Project operations began.




                           Page 14                                                GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
These greater-than-Class-C sealed sources were recovered from 157 sites
nationwide. Figure 3 shows the number of unwanted greater-than-Class-C
sealed sources that DOE recovered from each state. These recoveries
include sealed sources contained in

•   1,632 gauges that had been used by the construction industry for
    testing the moisture content of soil from a manufacturer in North
    Carolina who is consolidating these sources for shipment to Los
    Alamos and another 231 gauges from a manufacturer in California;

•   1,500 gauges used for petroleum exploration from a DOE subcontractor
    that is consolidating sources for shipment to Los Alamos and various
    companies in Texas; and

•   588 medical pacemakers from a manufacturer in Minnesota, 483 from a
    manufacturer in Pennsylvania, 233 from a manufacturer in Florida, and
    219 from DOE’s Oak Ridge research facility in Tennessee.




Page 15                                   GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
Figure 3: Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Sources Recovered by State, as of February 2003




                                        Note: GAO’s presentation of DOE’s data. In addition, the project recovered one source from a site in
                                        Puerto Rico.


                                        The 4,380 unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that awaited
                                        recovery as of February 2003, were estimated to contain about
                                        80.3 kilograms of radioactive material (see table 6). About 80 percent of
                                        these unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources (3,495 out of 4,380)
                                        contained the radioactive material americium-241, either alone or in
                                        combination with cesium-137. Table 6 also shows that the Off-Site Source
                                        Recovery Project has identified 85 more sealed sources containing
                                        plutonium-239 that need to be recovered than it initially estimated


                                        Page 16                                                   GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
(currently totaling 449 as compared to the 364 initially estimated). In
addition, the project has identified 46 unwanted strontium-90 sealed
sources that need to be recovered, which contain about 78 percent (about
62.8 kilograms) of the total amount of radioactive material that needs to be
recovered.

Table 6: Number of Each Type of Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Source Awaiting
Recovery and Associated Number of Holders and Grams and Curies of Radioactive
Material, as of February 2003

                                    Number of              Number of
    Type of source                    holders                sources             Curies           Grams
    Americium-241                         193                  3,343             11,904            3,542
    Americium-241 and                      19                    152                 23                3
    Cesium-137
    Californium-252a                           3                    15              22       Less than 1
                b
    Cesium-137                                 9                    21           3,435                57
              b
    Cobalt-60                                  1                     8             363                 2
    Curium-244                                 6                    59     Less than 1       Less than 1
    Plutonium-238                             47                   282         11,925                881
    Plutonium-239                            149                   449             812           13,034
                c
    Radium-226                                 5                     5               2                 2
    Strontium-90                               8                    46      3,971,315            62,786
                                               d                                                        e
    Total                                   440                  4,380      3,999,801           80,308
Source: DOE.

Note: GAO’s analysis of DOE’s data.
a
According to an Off-Site Source Recovery Project official, because californium-252 is expensive to
make, all greater-than-Class-C sealed sources containing californium-252 are recycled.
b
 According to an Off-Site Source Recovery Project official, owners of 29 sealed sources containing
cesium-137 or cobalt-60 have reported to the project that their sources are no longer wanted.
Although most of these sources are not greater than Class C and could be sent to an existing
commercial disposal facility, the owners for various reasons have been unable to dispose of them.
c
 According to an Off-Site Source Recovery Project official, because radium-226 is a naturally
occurring radioactive material, the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 places naturally occurring radioactive
material outside of federal jurisdiction. However, this official told us that although such sources are
the responsibility of the states, few states currently have the ability to recover these sources.
d
    Some holders of sources have more than one type of source.
e
    Total does not add to 80,308 because of rounding.




Page 17                                                     GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
The 4,380 unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that awaited
recovery were held by 328 different owners located across the United
States.8 As figure 4 shows, about 59 percent of these unwanted sealed
sources are located in the state of Texas in gauges that had been used for
petroleum exploration.




8
 The number of different holders of unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that
awaited recovery is lower than the number in table 6 because some holders of sources have
more than one type of source.




Page 18                                            GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
Figure 4: Greater-Than-Class-C Sealed Sources in Need of Recovery by State, as of February 2003




                                        Note: GAO’s presentation of DOE’s data.




                                        Page 19                                        GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
The Off-Site Source           The Office of Environmental Management’s most recent budget plan,
Recovery Project Is Not a     which was completed in fiscal year 2001, showed DOE providing about
Priority of DOE’s Office of   $3 million annually to the Off-Site Source Recovery Project from fiscal
                              year 2002 through fiscal year 2030.9 Consequently, the amount of funding
Environmental                 that the Office of Environmental Management authorized for the Off-Site
Management                    Source Recovery Project in fiscal year 2002 was about $2.2 million less
                              than the $5.1 million that the project estimated it needed.

                              In February 2002, the Office of Environmental Management conducted a
                              review of its priorities with the goal of improving program performance.
                              The review recommended that the office realign its priorities in a manner
                              more consistent with its main mission to accelerate the cleanup and
                              closure of contaminated DOE weapons development facilities. Office of
                              Environmental Management officials told us that they questioned whether
                              it is appropriate that the Off-Site Source Recovery Project be assigned to
                              their office and they are looking into the possibility of moving
                              responsibility for managing the project to another office in DOE. These
                              officials told us that the Office of Environmental Management planned to
                              allocate more funding to cleaning up and closing contaminated DOE
                              nuclear weapons production facilities, which the office considered a
                              higher priority, and only provide the project funding to store sealed
                              sources that already had been recovered. Consequently, DOE’s Office of
                              Environmental Management reduced its request for funding for the project
                              for fiscal years 2003 and 2004 to $2.2 million and $2 million, respectively.
                              However, a DOE official told us that the office plans to reduce future
                              requests further to $1 million annually beginning in fiscal year 2005, a
                              funding level that, according to this official, would be insufficient to keep
                              current project staff assigned to the project.

                              In August 2002, the Congress appropriated an additional $10 million for
                              DOE’s Off-Site Source Recovery Project, as part of the 2002 Supplemental
                              Appropriations Act for Further Recovery from and Response to Terrorist
                              Attacks on the United States, Public Law 107-206. According to a DOE
                              official, the Congress may have appropriated these funds, in part, as a
                              result of a January 2002 letter from the NRC Chairman to the Secretary of
                              Energy requesting an acceleration of efforts to recover greater-than-
                              Class-C sealed sources. In the letter, the NRC Chairman noted that NRC



                              9
                                The Office of Environmental Management’s budget plan was completed before DOE
                              finalized the time frame for the Off-Site Source Recovery Project, which, as currently
                              planned, will cease operations by the end of fiscal year 2010.




                              Page 20                                             GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
                            had completed an evaluation that concluded that—in light of the events of
                            September 11, 2001—the possession or storage of unwanted radioactive
                            sealed sources with no disposal outlet presents a potential vulnerability to
                            terrorist threats. The letter urged DOE to recover, within 18 months, all
                            greater-than-Class-C sealed sources currently known to be unwanted.

                            Rather than accelerating DOE’s recovery efforts, however, these funds will
                            be needed to keep DOE’s recovery efforts on track through fiscal year
                            2004. The Off-Site Source Recovery Project had planned recovery
                            activities for fiscal years 2003 and 2004 with a total cost of $13.8 million,
                            but DOE’s Office of Environmental Management had requested from the
                            Congress a total of $4.2 million for these years, leaving a funding shortfall
                            of $9.6 million. Prior to fiscal year 2003, the Off-Site Source Recovery
                            Project was able to make up for funding shortfalls by carrying over
                            unspent funds from prior fiscal years. However, by the end of fiscal year
                            2002, the size of the shortfall far exceeded the amount of funding available
                            to carry forward. Therefore, almost all of the supplemental funding
                            appropriated by the Congress will go toward helping the Off-Site Source
                            Recovery Project make up the funding shortfall and continue recovering
                            greater-than-Class-C sealed sources as planned through the end of fiscal
                            year 2004. Beyond fiscal year 2004, however, it remains unclear whether
                            the Off-Site Source Recovery Project will receive the funding it needs to
                            continue its planned recovery activities. The Secretary of Energy publicly
                            stated in November 2002 that securing and reducing radiological materials
                            that could be fabricated into dirty bombs is DOE’s highest priority and an
                            urgent problem. However, without funding available to the Off-Site Source
                            Recovery Project to recover additional sources, owners of unwanted
                            greater-than-Class-C sealed sources will be forced to store and secure their
                            sources on their premises until a disposal facility is available.


DOE Lacks Storage           The Off-Site Source Recovery Project has not been able to recover
Capacity Meeting the        additional greater-than-Class-C sealed sources containing plutonium-239
Security Requirements for   since mid-2002 because DOE lacks storage capacity at the Los Alamos
                            National Laboratory that meets the security requirements for this material.
Storing Additional Sealed   Because plutonium-239 can be used to make a crude nuclear bomb, as well
Sources Containing          as a dirty bomb, DOE regulations require that any DOE facility storing
Plutonium-239               6 kilograms or more of this material must meet DOE’s most stringent
                            security requirements. Meeting these requirements means that, among
                            other things, the sources containing plutonium-239 must be stored in a
                            vault-like room in a facility protected by two layers of physical barriers
                            (e.g., an outer and an inner fence) providing access controls and intrusion
                            detection; armed guards who are capable of responding to an intrusion;


                            Page 21                                     GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
inspections of personnel, vehicles, and hand-carried items entering and
exiting the facility; and exits that are alarmed or controlled at all times. As
of February 2003, the greater-than-Class-C sealed sources in storage at the
Los Alamos National Laboratory contain a total of less than 1 kilogram of
plutonium-239. DOE’s security requirements for this smaller amount of
material are less stringent and have already been met in the locations at
the Los Alamos National Laboratory where it is being stored. However,
according to a DOE official, these storage locations have also been used to
store radioactive material associated with other programs operating at Los
Alamos. As a result, by mid-2002, the Off-Site Source Recovery Project had
reached the limits of its capacity to store additional plutonium-239 at Los
Alamos without needing to meet DOE’s most stringent security
requirements. As of February 2003, the project had identified an additional
449 unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources containing about
13 kilograms of plutonium-239 that it will not be able to recover until
storage space meeting DOE’s most stringent security requirements is made
available.10

DOE is currently pursuing two parallel efforts to allow the Off-Site Source
Recovery Project to recover and store additional greater-than-Class-C
sealed sources containing plutonium-239. First, DOE is evaluating two
options for physically increasing the amount of storage space available
that meets the stringent security requirements for the additional
plutonium-239 that the project plans to recover. These options include
packaging and placing the sources in a secure trailer at the Los Alamos
National Laboratory in such a way that they are stored at least as securely
as if they were in a vault and creating secured storage space at the Nevada
Test Site in Nye County, Nevada. DOE is developing these options but is
not yet able to provide us with a time frame for how long it will take to
select and implement an alternative. An official from the Off-Site Source
Recovery Project told us that the project budgeted $1.5 million to cover
the initial cost of creating additional secure storage space for
plutonium-239 but was unable to provide a plan for ensuring that the
project received the additional funding that would be needed to continue
to maintain this storage space for as long as it was needed.



10
  The Off-Site Source Recovery Project also identified greater-than-Class-C sealed sources
containing another 15 kilograms of plutonium-239 that are currently in use. According to an
official from the Off-Site Source Recovery Project, DOE will eventually need to recover
these sources as well. Consequently, DOE could need to provide the capacity to securely
store a total of an additional 28 kilograms of this material, if a disposal facility were not
made available beforehand.




Page 22                                              GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
Concurrent with efforts to increase physical storage capacity, DOE is also
exploring whether all of the sealed sources containing plutonium-239 that
the Off-Site Source Recovery Project plans to recover meet the legal and
regulatory requirements for disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
Currently, by law, only radioactive waste resulting from the development
of nuclear weapons, referred to as defense waste, can be disposed of at
the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Any greater-than-Class-C sealed sources
containing plutonium-239 that were used in this manner can be disposed
of at this facility; however, most of the plutonium-239 sources that the Off-
Site Recovery Project plans to recover were not directly used for defense
purposes. DOE is exploring whether a case can be made that, although
these sources were used for research and other purposes, the
plutonium-239 that they contain was originally manufactured for use in
weapons development and thus can be disposed of at the Waste Isolation
Pilot Plant. In this way, DOE could potentially bypass the plutonium-239
storage problem entirely by establishing a permanent disposal facility.
However, DOE regulations specify that no amount of plutonium-239
requiring secured storage can be discarded, whether or not the material is
defense-related, without special approval to terminate the security
requirements. In March 2003, DOE approved the termination of the
security requirements for less than 2 kilograms of plutonium-239 so that
the Off-Site Source Recovery Project can dispose of the defense-related
plutonium-239 it is storing at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, but it
has not yet approved such a termination for non-defense-related
plutonium-239 in storage at Los Alamos.

Until DOE is able to increase its capacity to store greater-than-Class-C
sealed sources containing plutonium-239, 149 holders of unwanted sources
containing this radioactive material must continue to store and secure
their sources on their premises. About 77 percent of the holders of
unwanted plutonium-239 sources are universities. Six of the universities
we contacted told us that they received the sources during the 1950s and
1960s as part of a national effort to promote research related to nuclear
physics and they have not used these sources for many years. As a result,
these universities each told us that they are storing and securing from 1 to
10 sealed sources of plutonium-239 that they no longer want. In general,
the sources are stored in rooms or closets, typically without windows, and
access to the rooms can only be gained by passing through one or more
locked doors. Access to the keys to the doors is controlled, and doors are
checked periodically by campus safety personnel to ensure that they are
locked. In addition, NRC or state regulatory agencies review how the
universities are securing their sealed sources as part of the agencies’
reviews of the universities’ nuclear safety programs. However,


Page 23                                     GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
                          representatives from two universities told us of instances in which the
                          doors to the sources had been found unlocked or open, and
                          representatives from six of the universities told us that they wanted the
                          Off-Site Source Recovery Project to recover their sources immediately.11
                          We also talked to officials from a Department of Defense facility, a DOE
                          facility, and a decommissioned nuclear power plant about their
                          plutonium-239 sources, one of which had as many as 60 plutonium-239
                          sealed sources on-site. Officials at these facilities told us that their sources
                          were secure, and no instances of concern were mentioned. The official at
                          the nuclear power plant told us that the facility would like the Off-Site
                          Source Recovery Project to recover its sources as soon as possible
                          because it was in the process of shutting down operations.


DOE Lacks an Approved     The Off-Site Source Recovery Project cannot recover unwanted greater-
Means for Temporarily     than-Class-C sealed sources containing strontium-90 and cesium-137,
Storing Sealed Sources    because DOE has not approved a means for temporarily storing these
                          types of sealed sources at a DOE facility until a permanent disposal facility
Containing Strontium-90   is developed as it has done for the other types of sealed sources it needs to
and Cesium-137            recover.12 In deciding how and where sealed sources containing strontium-
                          90 and cesium-137 will be stored, DOE must do an appropriate analysis as
                          required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and
                          implementing regulations. Once DOE completes and approves the NEPA
                          analysis process for each type of source, it could begin to implement a
                          storage alternative. DOE prepared its NEPA analysis for strontium-90 in
                          December 2001, which offered nine alternatives for storing sealed sources
                          containing this radioactive material until a disposal facility is available. As
                          of February 2003, the Office of Environmental Management had not
                          approved its analysis for strontium-90 and had not begun its analysis for
                          cesium-137, and DOE was unable to provide us with an estimate of how
                          long it might take. According to Off-Site Source Recovery Project data,
                          almost all of the greater-than-Class-C sealed sources containing strontium-
                          90 that need to be recovered are currently being stored at facilities


                          11
                            Representatives from two universities told us that they wanted to keep their sealed
                          sources even though these sources were listed as unwanted on the project’s database.
                          12
                            Strontium-90 and cesium-137 are nuclear materials that remain radioactive for a long
                          period of time, can contaminate property, and require an extensive clean-up. These nuclear
                          materials can also be absorbed in the food chain and are potential cancer causing risks.
                          According to an Off-Site Recovery Project official, the project is able to store the unwanted
                          greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that contain both americium-241 and cesium-137
                          because the americium-241 in the sources determines how the sources must be stored.




                          Page 24                                              GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
                             operated by the Department of Defense and DOE. Also, while, according
                             to a project official, most unwanted sealed sources containing cesium-137
                             that have been reported to the project do not contain a greater-than-
                             Class-C amount of radioactive material, this official told us that there are
                             about 100 medical devices currently in use for treating blood that contain
                             cesium-137 sealed sources and that some of these sources may contain a
                             greater-than-Class-C amount of the radioactive material. The owners of
                             these medical devices have told project officials that they would like to
                             replace the devices with new technology.


                             As of February 2003, DOE had not made progress toward providing a
DOE Has Not Made             permanent disposal facility for greater-than-Class-C radioactive waste, as
Progress toward              required by Public Law 99-240. Specifically, DOE had not decided which
                             office within the agency would begin the first step in developing such a
Providing a                  facility, completing the appropriate NEPA analysis, which would likely be
Permanent Disposal           an Environmental Impact Statement. According to DOE officials, it is
                             unlikely that DOE will be able to provide a permanent disposal facility by
Facility                     fiscal year 2007 unless the agency makes it a priority. Furthermore, the
                             agency lacks a plan for recovering and storing unwanted greater-than-
                             Class-C sealed sources in the event that the disposal facility is delayed.


DOE Is Unlikely to Provide   According to officials from the Off-Site Source Recovery Project, DOE is
a Disposal Facility by       unlikely to be able to provide a disposal facility by fiscal year 2007, as it
Fiscal Year 2007             had assumed, unless the agency makes it a priority. As of February 2003,
                             DOE had not decided which DOE office would be assigned the
                             responsibility for beginning the first step in providing a disposal facility for
                             greater-than-Class-C radioactive waste—completing the appropriate NEPA
                             analysis. Public Law 99-240 gave DOE responsibility for providing for the
                             disposal of greater-than-Class-C radioactive waste. In developing a
                             disposal facility, DOE must determine, as required by NEPA and
                             implementing regulations, whether an Environmental Impact Statement is
                             necessary. If an Environmental Impact Statement is necessary, DOE would
                             have to propose a number of disposal alternatives, and the public would
                             have an opportunity to comment. Following completion of the
                             Environmental Impact Statement and a mandatory 30-day waiting period,
                             DOE would initiate a Record of Decision, in which the agency would
                             select the alternative to be implemented. After the Record of Decision is
                             completed, approved, and made public, DOE may begin to implement the
                             decision. Whether the alternative selected is to construct a new facility or
                             modify an existing facility, funding would need to be identified, and after
                             the facility was built, it would need to be licensed by NRC. All together,


                             Page 25                                      GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
developing a new disposal facility could take at least 7 years, not including
the time to physically build the facility.

Also, DOE had neither provided funding nor produced a timeline for
completing the NEPA analysis. Officials in DOE’s Office of Environmental
Management told us that the office had identified funding for completing
the Environmental Impact Statement for fiscal years 2002 and 2003;
however, after office management reviewed the budget in February 2002,
the office redirected the funding to other higher priority projects. They
also told us that they anticipated that DOE would decide which DOE
office would be responsible for the NEPA analysis some time in fiscal year
2003, and the Office of Environmental Management’s most recent budget
plan for the Off-Site Source Recovery Project mentioned the office’s
intention to defer the development of the facility.

DOE officials told us that it typically takes about 2 years to complete an
Environmental Impact Statement and as long as 3 years or more to
complete a Record of Decision. If the Record of Decision indicates that a
new facility is needed, funding would need to be secured, and construction
activities completed. The officials told us that there was not enough
information available at this time to estimate how long construction
activities would take. However, they told us that the NRC licensing
process that would follow could take at least 2 years. In a 1987 report to
the Congress, DOE estimated that providing a new facility, including
construction, could require at least 7 to 9 years to complete.13

In the 1987 report, DOE also stated that if an existing facility could be used
for disposal of greater-than-Class-C sealed sources, disposal services could
be provided sooner, depending upon the availability of the facility.
However, it remains uncertain when or if this will be possible. DOE has
been exploring whether the acceptance criteria for the Waste Isolation
Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico, can be broadened to include more of
the sealed sources that the project is recovering. Currently, the Waste
Isolation Pilot Plant can only accept certain types of radioactive waste
resulting from DOE’s defense-related activities, which would preclude it



13
  Public Law 99-240 also requires DOE to submit a report to the Congress setting forth the
agency’s recommendations for ensuring the safe disposal of greater-than-Class-C
radioactive waste, which the agency completed in February 1987. See U.S. Department of
Energy, Recommendations for Management of Greater-Than-Class-C Low-Level
Radioactive Waste, Report to Congress in Response to Public Law 99-240 (Washington,
D.C.: Feb. 1987).




Page 26                                             GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
                              from taking the majority of the sources recovered by the project.
                              Furthermore, although the Environmental Protection Agency has certified
                              the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the facility did not require an NRC license
                              because the waste sent there did not result from NRC-licensed activities.
                              However, Public Law 99-240 requires DOE to dispose of any greater-than-
                              Class-C radioactive waste that resulted from NRC-licensed activities,
                              which includes most of the sealed sources that the Off-Site Source
                              Recovery Project is recovering, at a facility licensed by NRC. These legal
                              matters would need to be resolved before the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
                              could be considered a viable option.

                              Another possibility being explored is the potential for disposing of greater-
                              than-Class-C sealed sources at DOE’s planned repository for waste
                              resulting from the nuclear power industry. For example, the
                              Environmental Impact Statement for building a disposal facility at Yucca
                              Mountain discussed the potential for disposing of greater-than-Class-C
                              radioactive waste at this facility. The purpose of such a repository is to
                              enable DOE to meet the requirements of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act,
                              which establishes DOE’s responsibility for providing for the permanent
                              disposal of high-level radioactive waste. However, the Nuclear Waste
                              Policy Act limits the amount of high-level waste that can be disposed of at
                              a facility built to satisfy the requirements of the Act and does not explicitly
                              state whether greater-than-Class-C waste could also be disposed of at the
                              same facility. As with the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, these legal matters
                              would need to be resolved before sending unwanted greater-than-Class-C
                              sealed sources to DOE’s planned repository could be considered a viable
                              option.


DOE Lacks a Plan for          As of February 2003, DOE’s Office of Environmental Management did not
Recovering Sealed Sources     have a plan for continuing the recovery of greater-than-Class-C sealed
if the Disposal Facility Is   sources in the event that the disposal facility is delayed. The Off-Site
                              Source Recovery Project was originally envisioned as providing DOE with
Delayed                       the means of recovering and temporarily storing unwanted greater-than-
                              Class-C sealed sources until a permanent disposal facility was available.
                              However, DOE still plans to begin phasing out the Off-Site Source
                              Recovery Project’s operations in fiscal year 2007 and cease operations
                              altogether in fiscal year 2010 as originally assumed. As a result, under the
                              current plan, any delays in providing a disposal facility could begin to
                              hinder DOE’s efforts to ensure unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed
                              sources are properly secured as early as fiscal year 2007.




                              Page 27                                      GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
              Since September 11, 2001, recovering and disposing of greater-than-
Conclusions   Class-C radioactive sealed sources has taken on added significance
              because doing so would secure nuclear materials that have the potential
              for being misused and that pose a threat to national security. The
              Secretary of Energy publicly stated in November 2002 that securing and
              reducing radiological materials that could be fabricated into dirty bombs is
              DOE’s highest priority and an urgent problem. We believe that continuing
              the recovery efforts of the Off-Site Source Recovery Project and providing
              a permanent disposal facility for greater-than-Class-C radioactive sealed
              sources should be key elements in any DOE strategy to address this
              problem. However, responsibility for these efforts is currently located in
              an office within DOE where they are not a priority. As a result, the Off-Site
              Source Recovery Project has not received adequate funding; key decisions
              about how and where to temporarily store and ultimately dispose of
              greater-than-Class-C sealed sources have not been made; and future
              progress toward permanently securing unwanted sealed sources is likely
              to be limited.

              The Off-Site Source Recovery Project has made progress recovering
              greater-than-Class-C sealed sources, but future progress will depend on
              whether DOE gives the project the priority that is commensurate with the
              risks that these sealed sources pose to the public; ensures adequate
              resources are devoted to the project; and provides, as soon as possible,
              sufficient space to store, at an appropriate level of security, any sealed
              sources that it needs to recover. Ultimately, however, all unwanted
              greater-than-Class-C sealed sources will need to be placed in a permanent
              disposal facility. Since already more than 17 years have passed since the
              enactment of Public Law 99-240, we believe it is time that DOE initiate the
              process to provide such a facility. DOE will have difficulty ensuring the
              success of this effort, however, without a plan that would, at a minimum,
              assign responsibility for developing the facility; establish milestones by
              which progress could be measured; evaluate potential disposal options;
              estimate costs and schedules; and address legislative, regulatory, and
              licensing considerations. Also, because it is unlikely that such a facility
              will be operational by fiscal year 2007 when the Off-Site Source Recovery
              Project is scheduled to begin phasing out operations, a plan to ensure the
              continued recovery and storage of greater-than-Class-C sealed sources
              until a disposal facility is available would help DOE prevent any gaps in its
              ability to secure unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources.

              As sealed sources currently in use wear out or become obsolete, the
              proliferation of unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources of all types
              across the United States will continue to increase. Unless action is taken,


              Page 28                                     GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
                      DOE’s efforts to recover, temporarily store, and ultimately dispose of
                      unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources will be severely impeded,
                      ultimately forcing owners of these dangerous materials to continue storing
                      and securing them on their premises where they will remain susceptible to
                      misuse, improper disposal, and theft.


                      Because of the risk that unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources
Recommendations for   could be used as weapons of terror, we recommend that the Secretary of
Executive Action      Energy determine whether the priority given to the Off-Site Source
                      Recovery Project is commensurate with the threat posed by these sealed
                      sources. Once this determination has been made, the Secretary should
                      ensure that adequate resources are devoted to the project to cover the
                      costs of recovering and storing these sealed sources as quickly as possible.
                      To ensure that unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources containing
                      plutonium-239, strontium-90, and cesium-137 are properly secured to
                      prevent their use in dirty bombs or, in the case of sources containing
                      plutonium-239, nuclear weapons, we further recommend that the
                      Secretary of Energy take immediate action to provide storage space for
                      these sources at a secure DOE facility and establish milestones by which
                      progress can be measured to ensure that the storage space is provided as
                      soon as possible.

                      In addition, we recommend that the Secretary of Energy initiate the
                      process to develop a permanent disposal facility for greater-than-Class-C
                      radioactive waste to carry out the requirements of Public Law 99-240. To
                      help manage the process, the Secretary should develop a plan that would,
                      at a minimum, assign responsibility for developing the facility; establish
                      milestones by which progress can be measured; evaluate potential
                      disposal options; estimate costs and schedules; and address legislative,
                      regulatory, and licensing considerations. Because it is unlikely that a
                      permanent disposal facility for such waste will be operational by fiscal
                      year 2007 when the Off-Site Source Recovery Project is scheduled to begin
                      phasing out operations, we recommend that the Secretary of Energy
                      develop a plan to ensure the continued recovery and storage of greater-
                      than-Class-C sealed sources until a disposal facility is available.


                      During a discussion of our report with DOE officials, including the
Agency Comments       Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Integration and Disposition,
                      agency officials expressed general agreement with our findings,
                      conclusions, and recommendations. In a subsequent March 31, 2003, letter,
                      which is reproduced in appendix II, DOE provided written comments on


                      Page 29                                    GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
              our report and raised three issues. Specifically, DOE asserted that (1) our
              report did not mention a joint DOE and NRC working group that was
              chartered to address the issue of unwanted sealed sources and their
              potential use in radiological dispersal devices; (2) the project baseline we
              reviewed had not been revised to incorporate the results of the working
              group’s draft report and the need to change the recovery effort from a
              general health-and-safety-driven program to a national-security-and-
              nuclear-nonproliferation-driven program; and (3) we did not interview any
              policy executives within DOE in preparing our report.

              Regarding the first issue, we have added to the report a discussion of the
              purpose and objectives of this working group and its preliminary
              recommendations to DOE and NRC. Although the efforts of this working
              group are broader than the scope of the Off-Site Source Recovery Project,
              in our view, the working group’s preliminary findings, conclusions, and
              recommendations generally support the conclusions and
              recommendations in our report. Regarding the second issue, our report
              states that the greater-than-Class-C sealed sources that are being
              recovered by the project are a national security concern because they are
              particularly attractive for potential use in producing dirty bombs. In
              addition, DOE has been required to provide a facility for disposing of these
              sources for more than 17 years. Finally, regarding the third issue, it is
              unclear to us why this point is being raised. During the course of our
              review, we met with the Director and then the Acting Director for
              Technical Program Integration, and on February 20, 2003, we met with the
              Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Integration and Disposition to
              obtain her comments on our written findings and discuss our preliminary
              conclusions and potential recommendations. Furthermore, on March 26,
              2003, at her request, we met with the Assistant Secretary for
              Environmental Management. During the meeting, we offered to accept any
              additional information she wanted to provide and make appropriate
              changes to the draft as needed. During this meeting, no changes were
              suggested to our findings, conclusions, or recommendations.


              We performed our review at the Off-Site Source Recovery Project office at
Scope and     the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico; DOE’s
Methodology   Albuquerque Operations Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and DOE’s
              and NRC’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. We reviewed statutes,
              regulations, and appropriate guidance as well as interviewed agency
              officials to determine the relevant statutory framework. We reviewed cost
              and schedule estimates from DOE and interviewed appropriate officials to
              determine how much DOE had spent to date recovering and storing



              Page 30                                    GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources and how DOE estimated the
number of sealed sources it planned to recover from fiscal years 1999
through 2010 and the cost to complete the remaining project activities. We
also obtained and reviewed the studies and other information on which
DOE based its estimates. We reviewed data from the Off-Site Source
Recovery Project on the number of greater-than-Class-C sealed sources
recovered to date and the number still awaiting recovery. In addition, we
visited the Los Alamos National Laboratory to see how sealed sources that
the project had recovered were being stored. We reviewed budget data
and interviewed headquarters officials from DOE’s Office of
Environmental Management to assess the level of the office’s commitment
to the Off-Site Source Recovery Project. We also interviewed appropriate
officials to determine what efforts DOE was undertaking to provide safe
and secure storage capacity for greater-than-Class-C sealed sources
containing plutonium-239, strontium-90, and cesium-137. To understand
how owners of unwanted sources containing plutonium-239 were
managing their sources until they were recovered, we spoke with
representatives from eight universities, a Department of Defense facility, a
DOE facility, and a decommissioned nuclear power plant, which were
located throughout the United States and listed on the project’s database
as having unwanted sources awaiting recovery. Finally, we interviewed
headquarters officials from DOE’s Office of Environmental Management to
determine the progress DOE had made toward providing a permanent
disposal facility.

We conducted our work from June 2002 through April 2003 in accordance
with generally accepted government auditing standards.


As agreed with your office, unless you publicly announce the contents of
this report earlier, we plan no further distribution of it until 30 days from
the date of this letter. We will then send copies to the Secretary of Energy,
the Acting Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, the
Director, Office of Management and Budget, and interested congressional
committees and other interested parties. We will also make copies
available to others who request them. In addition, the report will be
available at no charge at GAO’s web site at http:www.gao.gov.




Page 31                                     GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
If you or your staff have any questions about this report, I can be reached
at (202) 512-3841. Major contributors to this report include Gene Aloise,
Stephen Cleary, and Ilene Pollack.

Sincerely yours,




Robert A. Robinson
Managing Director, Natural
 Resources and Environment




Page 32                                    GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
                    Appendix I: Sections 1, 2, and 3 of the Low-
Appendix I: Sections 1, 2, and 3 of the Low-
                    Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments
                    Act of 1985, Public Law 99-240


Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments
Act of 1985, Public Law 99-240




          Page 33                                                  GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
          Appendix I: Sections 1, 2, and 3 of the Low-
          Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments
          Act of 1985, Public Law 99-240




Page 34                                                  GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
          Appendix I: Sections 1, 2, and 3 of the Low-
          Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments
          Act of 1985, Public Law 99-240




Page 35                                                  GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
          Appendix I: Sections 1, 2, and 3 of the Low-
          Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments
          Act of 1985, Public Law 99-240




Page 36                                                  GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
                            Appendix II: Comments from the Department
Appendix II: Comments from the Department
                            of Energy



of Energy


Note: GAO comments
supplementing those in
the report text appear at
the end of this appendix.




See comment 1.




See comment 1.




See comment 2.




                            Page 37                                     GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
                 Appendix II: Comments from the Department
                 of Energy




See comment 3.




                 Page 38                                     GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
               Appendix II: Comments from the Department
               of Energy




               The following are GAO’s comments on the Department of Energy’s (DOE)
               letter dated March 31, 2003.


               1. DOE commented that our draft report does not adequately consider a
GAO Comments      number of issues that DOE is addressing concerning nonproliferation
                  of sealed sources. Specifically, DOE mentions a joint DOE and
                  Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) working group that was
                  chartered to address the issue of unwanted sealed sources and their
                  potential use in radiological dispersal devices. A discussion of the
                  working group and its draft report will be addressed in our
                  forthcoming report on the control of domestic radiological sources.
                  However, we have added, in the background section of this report, a
                  discussion of the purpose of the working group, the objectives it was
                  addressing, and its preliminary recommendations to DOE and NRC
                  regarding the disposal of radiological sources. The efforts of this
                  working group are broader than the scope of the Off-Site Source
                  Recovery Project in that they include a discussion of all radiological
                  materials not just greater-than-Class-C sealed sources. In our view, the
                  working group’s preliminary findings, conclusions, and
                  recommendations generally support our conclusions and
                  recommendations regarding the need for DOE to (1) provide sufficient
                  resources to ensure the continued operations of the Off-Site Source
                  Recovery Project; (2) provide secure storage space for greater-than-
                  Class-C sealed sources that DOE needs to recover; (3) initiate the
                  process to provide a permanent disposal facility for greater-than-
                  Class-C waste; and (4) develop a plan to ensure continued recovery of
                  these sources in the likely event that a permanent facility is delayed.

                   DOE also makes the point that one major focus of this DOE and NRC
                   working group’s effort is to ensure DOE’s resources are spent wisely
                   and to focus recovery efforts on those sealed sources that pose the
                   greatest concern. However, greater-than-Class-C sealed sources have
                   already been identified as particularly attractive for potential use in
                   producing dirty bombs. Among other things, they contain
                   concentrated amounts of high-risk nuclear materials, such as
                   americium-241, cesium-137, plutonium-238, plutonium-239, and
                   strontium-90. Furthermore, Public Law 99-240 specifically requires
                   that DOE provide for the permanent disposal of greater-than-Class-C
                   sealed sources, a task even more important now, following the events
                   of September 11, 2001, than when the law was enacted.




               Page 39                                     GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
Appendix II: Comments from the Department
of Energy




2. DOE commented that the project’s baseline that we reviewed had not
   yet been revised to incorporate the results of the working group’s draft
   report and the need to change the recovery effort from a general
   health-and-safety-driven program to a national-security-and-nuclear-
   nonproliferation-driven program. In addition, the project’s baseline
   proposes a budget for fiscal year 2005 that will be considered, along
   with the working group’s report, during DOE’s fiscal year 2005 request
   preparation, which is ongoing. Regarding DOE’s comment that the
   project’s baseline will be revised to focus on national security and
   nonproliferation, greater-than-Class-C sealed sources are a concern
   because they are particularly attractive for potential use in producing
   dirty bombs. Furthermore, for more than 17 years, DOE has been
   required by Public Law 99-240 to provide a facility for disposing of all
   greater-than-Class-C waste, including greater-than-Class-C sealed
   sources that are no longer wanted by their owners. To date, however,
   DOE has not developed such a facility. Regarding DOE’s point about
   the budget, DOE’s comments indicate that the project’s future
   estimated budget needs will be considered along with the
   recommendations of the working group. However, there is still no
   indication that the Off-Site Source Recovery Project will get the
   funding it needs to recover greater-than-Class-C sealed sources beyond
   fiscal year 2004. As stated in our report, DOE’s Office of
   Environmental Management reduced its request for funding for the
   Off-Site Source Recovery Project for fiscal years 2003 and 2004 to
   $2.2 million and $2 million, respectively, to provide the funds
   necessary to store sealed sources that had already been recovered. In
   addition, a DOE official told us that the office plans to reduce future
   requests further to $1 million annually beginning in fiscal year 2005, a
   funding level that, according to this official, would be insufficient to
   keep current project staff assigned to the project.

3. DOE commented that we failed to interview any policy executives
   within DOE in preparing this report and that the draft report reflects
   this fact. It is unclear to us why this point is being raised. During the
   course of our review, in addition to meeting with a variety of project
   managers, we met with the Director and then the Acting Director for
   Technical Program Integration. These officials are directly responsible
   for the management of the Off-Site Source Recovery Project. On
   February 19, 2003, we provided DOE with our written findings, prior to
   sending the draft to DOE for agency comment, to confirm that the
   critical facts and key information used to formulate our analyses and
   findings were current, correct, and complete. On February 20, 2003,
   we met with a variety of program officials, including the Associate


Page 40                                     GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
           Appendix II: Comments from the Department
           of Energy




               Deputy Assistant Secretary for Integration and Disposition to discuss
               our findings, preliminary conclusions, and potential recommendations
               that flowed from the factual information we collected. These officials
               agreed with our findings and preliminary conclusions and
               recommendations. They did provide us technical changes, which we
               made to the draft report as appropriate. In addition, on March 26,
               2003, at her request, we met with the Assistant Secretary for
               Environmental Management. At this meeting, we said that we were
               willing to accept any information regarding the findings, conclusions,
               and recommendations in our draft report that the Assistant Secretary
               may have. In addition, we said that we were willing to make
               appropriate changes to the draft. The Assistant Secretary did not
               dispute the findings, conclusions, or recommendations in our draft
               report but said that our draft did not mention the working group and
               its resulting draft report dated February 2003. As stated above, we
               included a discussion of the working group’s efforts in the background
               section of this report.




(360234)
           Page 41                                     GAO-03-483 Nuclear Nonproliferation
                         The General Accounting Office, the audit, evaluation and investigative arm of
GAO’s Mission            Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities
                         and to help improve the performance and accountability of the federal
                         government for the American people. GAO examines the use of public funds;
                         evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides analyses,
                         recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make informed
                         oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO’s commitment to good government
                         is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability.


                         The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no cost is
Obtaining Copies of      through the Internet. GAO’s Web site (www.gao.gov) contains abstracts and full-
GAO Reports and          text files of current reports and testimony and an expanding archive of older
                         products. The Web site features a search engine to help you locate documents
Testimony                using key words and phrases. You can print these documents in their entirety,
                         including charts and other graphics.
                         Each day, GAO issues a list of newly released reports, testimony, and
                         correspondence. GAO posts this list, known as “Today’s Reports,” on its Web site
                         daily. The list contains links to the full-text document files. To have GAO e-mail
                         this list to you every afternoon, go to www.gao.gov and select “Subscribe to daily
                         E-mail alert for newly released products” under the GAO Reports heading.


Order by Mail or Phone   The first copy of each printed report is free. Additional copies are $2 each. A
                         check or money order should be made out to the Superintendent of Documents.
                         GAO also accepts VISA and Mastercard. Orders for 100 or more copies mailed to a
                         single address are discounted 25 percent. Orders should be sent to:
                         U.S. General Accounting Office
                         441 G Street NW, Room LM
                         Washington, D.C. 20548
                         To order by Phone:     Voice:    (202) 512-6000
                                                TDD:      (202) 512-2537
                                                Fax:      (202) 512-6061


                         Contact:
To Report Fraud,
                         Web site: www.gao.gov/fraudnet/fraudnet.htm
Waste, and Abuse in      E-mail: fraudnet@gao.gov
Federal Programs         Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7470


                         Jeff Nelligan, managing director, NelliganJ@gao.gov (202) 512-4800
Public Affairs           U.S. General Accounting Office, 441 G Street NW, Room 7149
                         Washington, D.C. 20548