Nuclear Weapons: Information on Safety Concerns with the Uranium Processing Facility Page: 2 of 21
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safety conditions at DOE's defense nuclear facilities, Congress created the Defense Nuclear
Facilities Safety Board (Safety Board)-an independent executive branch agency-in 1988. The
Safety Board has broad oversight responsibilities regarding these facilities but does not have
the authority of a regulator.5
At the request of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Water
Development and in accordance with the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act,
GAO is required to submit quarterly reports on the UPF.6 Our first report was issued in July
2013 and found that (1) key assumptions contained in multiple cost estimates proved to be
inaccurate and were the primary factors that contributed to the UPF's cost increase from $1.1
billion in 2004 to $6.5 billion in 2012, and (2) the UPF contractor did not adequately manage and
integrate the design work subcontracted to four other contractors and therefore the UPF's roof
will have to be raised 13 feet to ensure the processing equipment would fit into the facility, which
resulted in approximately $540 million in additional costs.7 Based on discussions and
agreement with your offices, our objective for this second report was to identify the concerns, if
any, that the Safety Board has raised with the UPF and the actions, if any, NNSA has taken to
address those concerns.
To do this work, we reviewed key DOE management orders and standards that establish project
management and safety requirements for constructing new nuclear facilities. In addition, we
reviewed UPF safety-related documents prepared by DOE, NNSA, and the UPF contractor as
well as multiple safety assessments of the UPF conducted by the Safety Board. We interviewed
UPF contractor representatives responsible for developing key safety documents as well as
NNSA officials who oversee this process. In addition, we visited the Y-12 plant and received
safety-related briefings from NNSA and contractor officials. We also interviewed and received
briefings from Safety Board staff responsible for conducting oversight of the UPF.
We conducted this performance audit from April 2013 to October 2013 in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and
perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained
provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.
The Safety Board exercises broad oversight over DOE facilities. Specifically, the Safety Board
a reviews DOE's safety and design documentation to ensure that DOE is complying with
its own requirements and processes for integrating safety into the design process;
5The Safety Board consists of five members appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate and is
supported by approximately 100 technical, legal, and administrative staff.
6The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 renamed UPF as the Uranium Capabilities
Replacement Project. NNSA uses the new nomenclature in its fiscal year 2014 budget request.
7GAO, Nuclear Weapons: Factors Leading to Cost Increases with the Uranium Processing Facility, GAO-13-686R
(Washington, D.C.: July 12, 2013).
GAO-14-79R Nuclear Weapons
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Nuclear Weapons: Information on Safety Concerns with the Uranium Processing Facility, text, October 25, 2013; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc302471/m1/2/: accessed March 24, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.