April 25, 2012

The Department of Energy's $12.2 Billion Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant – Quality Assurance Issues – Black Cell Vessels

The Office of Inspector General received allegations concerning aspects of the quality assurance
program at the Department of Energy's (Department) $12.2 billion Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) project in Hanford, Washington.  Our review substantiated the allegation.  In short, we found that the Department had procured and installed vessels in WTP that did not always meet quality assurance and/or contract requirements.  For the vessels that we reviewed, we identified multiple instances where quality assurance records were either missing or were not traceable to the specific area or part of the vessel.  We also found that the Department paid the WTP contractor a $15 million incentive fee for production of a vessel that was later determined to be defective.  Although the Department demanded return of the fee, it did not follow up on the matter and the fee was never reimbursed.  Weaknesses in quality assurance records associated with black cell and hard-to-reach processing vessels occurred because of deficiencies in Bechtel's implementation of its quality assurance program and a lack of Department oversight.  The Office of Environmental Management concurred with the report's recommendations and its comments were generally responsive to our recommendations.  Management officials noted improvements that have been made since the last vessels were delivered and outlined a number of corrective actions that have recently been initiated. 

Topic: Environmental Cleanup