Why GAO Did This Study
In December 2000, DOE awarded Bechtel a contract to design and construct the WTP project at DOE's Hanford Site in Washington State. This project--one of the largest nuclear waste cleanup facilities in the world-- was originally scheduled for completion in 2011 at an estimated cost of $4.3 billion. Technical challenges and other issues, however, have contributed to cost increases and schedule delays. GAO was asked to examine (1) remaining technical challenges, if any, the WTP faces; (2) the cost and schedule estimates for the WTP; and (3) steps DOE is taking, if any, to improve the management and oversight of the WTP project. GAO reviewed DOE and contractor data and documents, external review reports, and spoke with officials from DOE and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board and with contractors at the WTP site and test facilities.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that DOE (1) not resume construction on WTP’s pretreatment and high-level waste facilities until, among other things, the facilities’ design has been completed to the level established by nuclear industry guidelines; (2) ensure the department’s contractor performance evaluation process does not prematurely reward contractors for resolving technical issues later found to be unresolved; and (3) take appropriate steps to determine whether any incentive payments were made erroneously and, if so, take actions to recover them. DOE generally agreed with the report and its recommendations.