oversight

Efforts to Improve DOE's Management of the Nuclear Weapons Complex

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-03-28.

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

’ ‘\
.                       United States General Accounting OfRce / q // / 5’
                        Testimony
b GAO

                                                                141115

       For Release      Efforts    to Improve DOE's Management
       on Wednesday     of the    Nuclear Weapons Complex
       March 28, 1990




                        Statement   for the Record of
                           Victor  S. Rezendes
                        Director,   Energy Issues
                        Resources,   Community,   and Economic
                           Development   Division
                        Before the
                        Subcommittee  on Natural   Resources,
                          Agriculture  Research and
                          Environment
                        Committee on Skience,    Space and
                          Technology
                        House of Representatives




                                    ic)   /WI5
                                                                     GAO Form 160 W/87)
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

        We are pleased to submit a statement for the record on the
Department of Energy's (DOE) efforts       to improve management of
environmental,      safety, and health matters at the nuclear weapons
complex.     Specifically,   we will discuss (1) DOE's environmental,
safety,    and operational   problems; (2) longstanding  management
problems of the complex; (3) recent DOE initiatives       to improve its
management of the complex: and (4) key management issues that could
effect   DOE's recent initiatives.

       Today, the weapons complex is virtually        shutdown and faces a
wide variety    of serious environmental,     safety,    and operational
problems.     Major problems include facilities       that have
deteriorated:    others that do not comply with environmental,           safety,
and health standards:     radioactive  wastes that have been stored for
decades; and contaminated groundwater and soil that need to be
cleaned up. The estimated cost to address these problems is
staggering--   ranging up to $155 billion.

        The problems of the complex have been largely                due to DOE's
failure    to effectively        manage the nuclear weapons complex.
Important management problems have included an emphasis on
production      over environmental        and safety matters,       shortcomings  in
DOE's oversight        function,    limited   technical     staff to carry out
departmental       programs and oversight        functions,      and the absence of a
specific     strategic     plan for addressing the modernization            and
environmental       problems of the complex.

         Recently,   DOE has undertaken a number of initiatives            designed
to better deal with its problems.             These initiatives      include a
management and oversight        restructuring     within DOE, issuance of
strategic     plans for modernization       and environmental      cleanup of its
facilities,       and efforts to make its contractors          more accountable.


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Also, the Defense Nuclear Facilities       Safety     Board, mandated by the
Congress, will provide outside,      independent      safety oversight.

       We believe that DOE's recent initiatives           are steps in the
right direction     for ensuring the safe and environmentally             sound
operation    of DOE's nuclear facilities.           However, we have identified
several key issues that may impact on DOE's ability              to implement
these initiatives      and effectively      manage the complex in the future.
In this regard, we believe that successful management of the
complex will depend on (1) DOE's commitment to ensuring that all
operations    are carried out safely and in an environmentally
acceptable manner, (2) the close coordination             and interaction     among
various oversight      organizations     and program offices,      and (3) the
recruitment    of technically     qualified    staff.

       I would now like      to discuss each point of my testimony        in more
detail   beginning with      the serious problems of the complex.

ENVIRONMENTAL.SAFETY, AND
OPERATIONALPROBLEMSAT THE COMPLEX

       Our work over the past several years has described various
unresolved environmental,    safety,  and operational   problems within
the nuclear weapons complex.      Specifically,   we have called
attention   to

      --   serious safety guestions regarding       the operation     of DOE
           reactors and other facilities;

      -- the deterioration      of DOE's facilities  resulting       from aging
         and inattention      to capital improvements:

      -- groundwater and soil contamination   at many DOE
 u     ', installations  around the country, which are at levels
          hundreds to thousands of times above standards:   and
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           -- the need to dispose of radioactive  waste that DOE has been
              temporarily storing at various sites around the country.

              W e have also pointed out that our nation's ability     to make
     nuclear material for weapons is virtually         nonexistent with the
     shutdown of the Savannah River reactors,        the Rocky F lats Plant, and
     the Hanford Purex reprocessing plant.        The Waste Isolation     Pilot
     Plant, a repository       for disposing of certain types of radioactive
     waste, is still       not open, and waste is continuing to back up at DOE
     facilities.       Addressing these and other environmental,     safety, and
     operational      problems is a formidable task, which we have estimated
     could cost up to $155 billion.

     LoNGSTANDINGMANAGEMENT  PROBLEMS
     HAVE PREVAILEDW ITHIN THE COMPLEX

            Throughout the last decade our work, as well as other
     independent studies, has identified     continuing management problems
     at the complex. These management problems have contributed          to the
     seriousness of the environmental,     safety, and health problems at
     the complex. Specifically,      these problems have included DOE's
     emphasis on production over environmental,       safety, and health
     matters: shortcomings in DOE's oversight:      lack of technically
     qualified   staff, resulting  in an over reliance on contractors;      and
     inadequate strategic    plans for addressing the problems of the
     complex.

           As early as 1985, we reported that DOE placed more emphasis on
     contractor    performance in achieving production goals than on
     environmental,     safety, and health matters.    And, as recently as
     1989, we indicated that under DOE's award fee process substantial
     monetary awards have been paid to some DOE contractors       despite the
     exi&ence of significant      environmental,  safety, and health problems
     at the facilities     managed by them. DOE officials    have also
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acknowledged    that in the past, production         has taken priority       over
environmental     and safety considerations.

        Shortcomings in DOE's oversight             program has been another
important management problem.              We have issued numerous reports
identifying     persistent     problems with internal         and external
oversight     of DOE facilities.         Similarly,      the Secretary of Energy,
on taking office       in 1989, determined that the existing              oversight
system for environmental,           safety,    and health matters at DOE was a
failure.      The major cause, according to the Secretary of Energy,
was confusion among the roles of DOE's headquarters                   program
management, its field organization,               and the Office of Environment,
Safety, and Health--the          result of an absence of clear lines of
authority     and responsibility,        dilution     of accountability,     and an
absence of adequate specificity             in DOE orders.

       Lack of technically     qualified   staff has also limited      the
effectiveness     of DOE's environmental,       safety,  and health oversight
functions.      Because of difficulties     in recruiting    and retaining
personnel with the necessary expertise,           DOE has had to rely
extensively     on the use of contractors      to assist in providing
assurance that DOE facilities         are operated safely and in an
environmentally      sound manner. Studies throughout the 1980s have
shown that DOE has not been able to properly perform environmental
and safety oversight      because DOE's staff lacked the technical
capabilities     and experience.

      Finally,    DOE has lacked comprehensive strategic        plans for
addressing its problems.          In March 1987 we pointed out that DOE did
not have an adequate plan for addressing the wide-ranging             problems
it faces.      At that time, we called upon DOE to develop a strategic
plan for setting      forth,   among other things,   a comprehensive picture
of the environmental,        safety,  and health problems that had to be
addressed and a framework for prioritizing         the billions     of dollars
in federal expenditures        needed to address them. Such strategic
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plans are important for providing  DOE and the Congress with a
comprehensive strategy  for making sound decisions to effectively
manage and determine the future direction  of the complex.

    ENT DOE MANMENT
;

         Recently,    DOE has taken several initiatives      designed to better
deal with these longstanding           management problems.    These recent
initiatives       include (1) a management and oversight       restructuring
within DOE: (2) issuance of strategic            plans on environmental
restoration       and waste management, and modernization        of the complex:
 (3) assessments of its facilities           to determine whether they meet
federal,     state, and local environmental,         safety, and health
requirements;        and (4) efforts    to make contractors   more accountable
for environmental,        safety,    and health matters.

         DOE's management and oversight      restructuring       initiatives        are
designed to instill      a "management culture It throughout            DOE and its
contractors     that focuses on correcting       environmental,         safety,     and
health problems.      This restructuring      has been three-fold.              First,
DOE has established      an Office of Environmental          Restoration        and
Waste Management to consolidate        environmental       cleanup, compliance
and waste management activities.         The office's       primary task is to
carry out DOE's long-term strategy         for the cleanup up of its
facilities.      This includes providing      centralized      management for
waste management operations       and environmental        restoration.

       Second, DOE is in the process of restructuring           safety
functions     to ensure the safe operation of its facilities.
Specifically,      the proposed restructuring       plan (1) realigns   DOE's
existing     nuclear safety oversight     functions     from the Office of
Environment,      Safety, and Health to various DOE Program Offices,           (2)
establishes     the Office of Nuclear Safety to independently          oversee
nuclear safety,       and (3) transfers  development of nuclear safety
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policy from the Office of Environment, Safety,              and Health    to the
Office of Nuclear Energy.   The Defense Nuclear             Facilities    Safety
Board will provide outside,  independent safety             oversight.

        Third, DOE has undertaken initiatives        to restructure     the
Department's      accountability     in the area of worker health and
safety.      These initiatives     include (1) establishment      of an
independent panel to help restructure           DOE's epidemiology    (radiation
health effects)       program, including    assessing the utility     and
feasibility      of transferring    epidemiologic   research to another
federal agency: (2) creation          of a National Academy of Sciences
standing committee to oversee epidemiologic            research requests:
(3) development of a comprehensive epidemiologic             data repository
containing     information     on past and present DOE workers; and
(4) formulation       of milestones to achieve full compliance with
occupational      safety and health standards.

        In addition     to its managerial restructuring,         DOE has issued
two strategic       plans.     Last year, DOE issued its Fnvironmental
Restoration     and Waste Manaaement Five-Year Plan report,             which
outlines     a $20 billion      effort    over the next 5 years (fiscal      years
1991 through 1995) to (1) begin bringing             facilities    into
compliance with environmental             laws, (2) begin cleaning up
environmental       contamination      at DOE sites,   and (3) manage the wide
variety    of radioactive       and hazardous waste that DOE generates.
Furthermore,      in December 1988 DOE issued the United States
Deoartment of Enerav Nuclear Weanons Comnlex Modernization                 Renort.
This modernization         plan called for about a $45 billion
restructuring       of the complex to build new facilities          and reactors,
upgrade others, and phase out other facilities.                 DOE is currently
revising    this modernization         plan and important changes are still
being studied.

    u DOE has also begun assessments         of its facilities      to ensure
that they achieve and maintain full          compliance with      federal, state,
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and local environmental,         safety,    and health requirements.       These
"Tiger Team" assessments evaluate DOE’s environmental,                safety,  and
health programs and advise the Secretary--independent                of line
management --of their        (1) effectiveness;     (2) compliance with
federal,     state, and local regulations:        and (3) internal     DOE
requirements.        Recently,   in addition    to DOE personnel,
Occupational       Safety and Health Administration       inspectors    have
participated       in these assessments to provide their perspective           on
DOE's worker health and safety programs.

       Finally,     DOE has undertaken efforts         to make its contractors
more accountable         for environmental,     safety,   and health matters.
Specifically,       DOE has begun to implement changes to improve its
award fee process,           These changes include having all awards
reviewed and concurred in by DOE headquarters                and requiring  that
environmental,        safety,   and health matters be weighted by at least
51 percent in the evaluation           process.     Further,   changes are being
considered by DOE, such as making management and operating
contractors      liable     for certain costs, claims, and liabilities
currently     reimbursed by DOE.

MANAGEMENTISSUES FACING
THE NUCLEARWEAPONSCOMPLEX

        DOE's recent management initiatives         are a positive      step in
addressing the longstanding         management issues of the complex.
However, we have identified         several key issues that may affect
DOE's ability       to implement these initiatives.       Specifically,      we
believe that successful         management of the complex will depend on
 (1) DOE's commitment to ensuring that all operations              are carried
out safely and in an environmentally          acceptable manner, (2) close
coordination      and interaction    among various oversight       organizations
and program offices,        and (3) the recruitment     of technically
qualified    staff.     I would like to discuss our views on each of
these issues at this time.




                                                f
                 nt to Environmental.
    etv.   and Health Issues

         Once established,    we believe DOE needs to maintain a
ttculturett    committed to resolving    environmental,     safety,    and health
problems that confront the weapons complex.             As pointed    out by the
National Academy of Sciences in 1987, assurance of safety at DOE's
reactors     cannot be generated by organizational        restructuring     alone:
a change in attitude       towards safety will be needed as well.           DOE
facilities      are manned by staff who are familiar       with operations
from long experience,        but they are also accustomed to the historic
attitude     that production    takes precedence over environmental,
safety,     and health goals.

         The Secretary of Energy, as part of his new management focus,
 is attempting     to increase DOE's sensitivity       to environmental,
safety,     and health matters.    However, such changes must filter          down
through all levels of DOE, including         its contractors.       Taking this
into account, instilling       the right attitude      towards environmental,
safety,     and health matters will likely      be a slow and difficult
process.      In this regard, DOE has taken several restructuring
actions in the past, such as establishing           the Assistant    Secretary
for Environment,      Safety, and Health and the Advisory Committee on
Nuclear Facility      Safety, to improve the management of its
facilities.      However, despite these initiatives,         environmental,
safety,     and health problems still    persisted.      Thus, the ultimate
test of DOE's recent initiatives        will be determined by the extent
DOE can develop and maintain,        at all levels in the department,         a
ttculturelV committed to resolving      environmental,     safety,   and health
problems.
GoordLnation    aono Various
Oraanizations    and Proaram Offices

         Effective     coordination    among DOE's offices     and the various
oversight       organizations      is extremely important.       Past problems,
such as the absence of clear lines of authority                and
responsibility,         necessitated    the recent restructuring      within DOE.
Effective       communication will be necessary, once the
responsibilities         of DOE's new organizational       structure   is
established,         to ensure that all organizations       within DOE clearly
understand their responsibilities.               Once this is accomplished,     DOE
will be in a better position            to effectively    carry out recent
initiatives        to improve its management.

        Since DOE's managerial restructuring          is still   undergoing
change and will entail        several functional      and staff moves over a
period of time, it is important that the various internal                  and
external     oversight   organizations   coordinate      and interact    closely.
Close coordination       and interaction   should help to minimize
inefficiencies      and maximize oversight      effectiveness,       especially
during the transition       period of the realignment.          For example, the
transition     period provides DOE with the opportunity            to establish   an
early positive      working relationship     with the congressionally
mandated Defense Nuclear Facilities          Safety Board.

RR                                          'ed Staff

        Sufficient       technical    resources will be needed to effectively
carry out DOE's recent initiatives.                However, as pointed out
earlier,      historically       there has been and continues to be a shortage
of such staff.          Furthermore,      competing demands for them may hinder
DOE's efforts         in attracting     them. The competition     is not just
limited     to private       industry working in these areas: the competition
extends to other organizations              within the federal government as
well as within DOE. For example, DOE will have to compete with the
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Defense Nuclear Facilities         Safety Board for the same technically
qualified    personnel that will be needed for the Board to carry out
its safety oversight      function.      As well, DOE will have to compete
for environmentally      qualified    staff with the federal,  state, and
private   industry   groups responsible      for cleaning up waste sites.

      If    DOE is unable to recruit     the required technically      qualified
staff,    it may have to rely heavily,        as it has in the past, on its
contractors     to ensure that DOE operations        are carried out in a safe
and environmentally        acceptable manner. Consequently,        the positive
concept of the restructuring         may not,   in itself,   ensure the
effective    management and oversight       that DOE's renewed emphasis on
environmental,     safety,    and health issues will require.




         In summary, the environmental,      safety,  and health problems
facing the nuclear weapons complex are still           critical.       To DOE's
credit,      it has undertaken several initiatives      that will enable it
to more effectively       deal with its problems.      Although these
initiatives,       in themselves, do not remedy the problems facing the
complex, they are an important aspect of creating              an organization
and management system which has the capability            to effectively      plan,
implement, and oversee corrective         actions.    Rebuilding     and cleaning
up the complex is a long-term,        costly undertaking,        and the pace,
timing,      and resources devoted to this undertaking         are fraught with
uncertainties       given the huge budget deficit     and other competing
demands. With this in mind, I believe it is wise that DOE takes
the time now to properly organize itself           to manage the initiatives
needed to address the problems it faces.

       DOE's managerial restructuring    will likely      continue this       year.
As it does, DOE needs to address the issues raised in this
testimony --a commitment to environmental,        safety,   and health
matters at all levels:   effective    coordination     among various
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oversight    organizations     and program offices;      and recruitment   of the
necessary    technical    expertise.     How effectively     DOE addresses these
issues  will    impact the effectiveness      of DOE's recent initiatives
to better organize itself.           For our part,   because   of the importance
of ensuring that the nuclear weapons complex is safe and operated
in an environmentally       sound manner, we will continue to monitor
DOE's progress in implementing these recent initiatives               and assess
any future initiatives.




(3Q1930)


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