Better Oversight Needed for Safety and Health Activities at DOE's Nuclear Facilities

Gao ID: EMD-81-108 August 4, 1981

GAO was requested to determine if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) or some other form of regulation would be preferable to the Department of Energy (DOE) oversight program currently in existence for safety and health matters at DOE nuclear facilities. To determine the adequacy of the DOE oversight program, GAO reviewed the four functional program areas: (1) occupational safety; (2) emergency preparedness; (3) facility design safety; and (4) environmental monitoring.

GAO found that the DOE program is not adequate to assure that the employees at the nuclear facilities are provided with safe and healthful working conditions. Radiological emergency preparedness has not received sufficient priority in DOE to ensure a level of preparedness for a serious nuclear accident. The DOE emergency preparedness program lacks the coordinated, unified approach necessary to ensure adequate protection at all DOE facilities. The effort by DOE for assuring that emergency preparedness programs are in place and working are ineffective. DOE has not fulfilled responsibilities assigned to it by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) because it has failed to assign sufficient resources. In a previous report, GAO identified a number of weaknesses in the DOE emergency preparedness program which still exist. DOE is taking little action to assure that its older facilities meet current safety criteria and standards. The DOE safety analysis program, designed to provide such assurance, received relatively low priority and, as such, DOE is not aware of the level of design safety at many nuclear facilities. While the DOE operating contractors are reporting that their operations are conducted well within radiological environmental standards, the program lacks consistency from contractor to contractor and from DOE field office to field office. In addition, DOE relies virtually exclusively on the operating contractor for environmental oversight.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Daniel C. White Team: General Accounting Office: Energy and Minerals Division Phone: (301) 353-5710

The Justia Government Accountability Office site republishes public reports retrieved from the U.S. GAO These reports should not be considered official, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Justia.