- Report: DOE
wasted millions failing to coordinate cask development
- Public interest groups seek
probe into possible nuke waste cask flaws
- Outrage of the Week
wasted millions failing to coordinate cask
Recently-released results of a
federal audit have found that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) may
wasted millions of dollars by
failing to coordinate development of nuclear
Investigators have determined
that, beginning in the mid-1990s, the Idaho National Engineering
Laboratory, the Hanford site in Washington state and the DOE program that
manages nuclear waste from naval reactors simultaneously developed three
different spent nuclear fuel canisters. In addition, the naval
reactor program and the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management
each were acquiring different shipping casks to transport waste to a
high-level repository being planned at Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest
of Las Vegas.
In an 11-page report issued by
DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman, auditors concluded that
substantial cost reductions could have been realized through greater
coordination and consolidation of these activities. By eliminating
redundancies and streamlining efforts, DOE could have saved "a significant
portion" of $13.8 million spent on designing the multi-ton containers, the
"The results of this
audit underscore the fact that DOE is continuing to waste wasting
incredible sums of taxpayer dollars on a program that has no scientific
merit," said Bob Loux, executive director of the State of Nevada Agency
for Nuclear Projects.
The investigation, which took
place between April and December 2002, also found that canisters that
store nuclear waste on an interim basis at Hanford were not designed for
use in disposal, raising the possibility that the spent fuel may have to
be repackaged for burial at Yucca Mountain.
Public interest groups seek probe into possible
nuke waste cask
The public interest groups
and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service have called for an
investigation into allegations of
flaws in nuclear waste casks designed by a prominent
nuclear services firm.
In a letter to the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission's (NRC) independent inspector general, the groups
argued that audits conducted in 2000 uncovered nine quality assurance
problems suggesting that dry storage casks designed by New Jersey-based
Holtec International and fabricated by contractor U.S. Tool & Die, may
not match government design specifications.
A member of the audit team has
alleged the NRC failed to address the safety issues after he brought them
to the agency's attention in December 2001.
In their letter, the groups
asked the NRC's independent inspector general to investigate whether the
agency was "appropriately responsive to public safety concerns."
The audit raises questions
whether casks loaded with nuclear fuel will perform as expected if
involved in accidents, according to Public Citizen policy analyst Lisa
Gue. Shirani's audit turned up possible welding violations, brittle
materials, damages to neutron shielding and falsified quality assurance
documents, the groups said.
"If plans go forward for the
Private Fuel Storage (in Utah) and Yucca Mountain and the NRC is banking
on analysis that has a questionable correspondence to reality, that raises
questions whether the NRC is operating in La-La Land," Gue said.
Nevada-hired experts have
begun to examine claims for possible implications for the proposed Yucca
Mountain repository, which will require casks to ship nuclear waste 100
miles northwest of Las Vegas.
The Department of Energy has
not yet selected cask designs for the Yucca projects although Holtec is
expected to be among the companies bidding.
"We have looked at the general
issue of the implications of a failure to follow quality assurance
procedures if a cask were to be involved in an accident," Nevada
transportation consultant Robert Halstead said. "Now we will look at the
specific allegations on Holtec.
"It's a very valid issue,"
Halstead added. "A whistle-blower raising questions about how a fabricator
is dealing with QA procedures is important."
It’s the Money,
by the U.S. House of Representatives’ energy and water appropriations
subcommittee to give the Department of Energy millions of dollars more
than even the President requested for DOE’s Yucca Mountain program in FY
2004 is exactly the kind of thing Will Rogers had in mind when he posed
the question, “If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get
At the same
time that revelations are surfacing – new ones almost weekly – about major
deficiencies in the quality of DOE’s Yucca Mountain work, whistleblower
allegations regarding cover-ups and worker intimidation, millions wasted
on cask development, challenges to DOE’s assertions about Yucca Mountain’s
ability to safely contain deadly nuclear waste, and assorted instances of
mismanagement and questionable science, the House subcommittee is
proposing to throw more money at DOE in hopes of, if not solving, at least
papering over the problems.
Ironically, it is the very
people who have created the massive quality assurance and other problems
for the Yucca Mountain project – the army of
contractors and subcontractors DOE uses to run the program – who stand to
benefit from the outpouring of congressional largesse, should the House
subcommittee’s ill-advised funding proposal survive further legislative
action. Like through a financial sieve, the new-found funds would be
passed through DOE directly to these contractors in what has become the
largest corporate welfare program in the nation, rewarding shoddy work and
Federal agencies (and their
contractors) often use the concept of “just in time” decision-making and
implementation in carrying out their activities – i.e., not doing things
too soon or too late to assure maximum benefit. For DOE and it’s
assorted hangers-on, there is certainly a “just in time” aspect to the
House proposal. With the threat of legal defeat looming over the
Yucca Mountain program from the State
of Nevada’s barrage of promising litigation, the thought of such a major
and unexpected eleventh hour financial windfall is sure to have DOE’s
subcommittee’s action is sure to encourage even greater irresponsibility
and waste in a program has, from the beginning, been characterized by
massive cost escalations and fiscal and programmatic mismanagement.
Putting Will Roger’s thesis to the test hardly seems necessary to prove
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