2014 GAO Report

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Outreach Needed to Help Gain Public Acceptance for Federal Activities That Address Liability

Download the Report — 4.6 MB, 60 Pages

DOE is responsible for disposing of commercial spent nuclear fuel. DOE entered into contracts with owners and generators of spent nuclear fuel to begin disposing of it beginning in 1998, with plans for disposal in a national repository. DOE, however, was unable to meet the 1998 date and, as a result of lawsuits, the federal government has paid out about $3.7 billion for storage costs. DOE proposed a new strategy in January 2013 to build consolidated interim storage facilities—starting operations in 2021 and 2025. GAO was asked to review issues related to DOE’s strategy for managing spent nuclear fuel.

    This report
  1. Describes the expected rate of spent nuclear fuel accumulation in wet and dry storage,
  2. Identifies the basis of federal liability for spent nuclear fuel management to date and of DOE’s estimate of future liabilities, and
  3. Assesses challenges, if any, that experts and stakeholders have identified to the federal government’s ability to meet DOE’s time frames for managing spent nuclear fuel at consolidated interim storage facilities and potential ways for DOE to mitigate the challenges. GAO reviewed documents from DOE and other agencies, and interviewed experts and stakeholders from industry, federal and state governments, interest groups, and independent entities.

What GAO Recommends — DOE should implement a coordinated outreach strategy to better inform the public about federal spent nuclear fuel management issues. DOE generally agreed with the findings and recommendation in the report.

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