January 11, 2013

Department of Energy's Management of Surplus Nuclear Materials

We found the Department of Energy (Department) strengthened its nuclear materials management program by developing a life cycle nuclear materials management policy, implementing strategic plans for consolidation and disposition of nuclear materials and refining its nuclear materials management organization.  However, we determined that challenges remain.  

Despite requirements, the Department's Office of Nuclear Material Integration had formally proposed and gained Program and field element approval of only one Lead Material Management Organization (LMMO) to integrate and coordinate the management of specific nuclear materials.  Some nuclear materials were being managed by de facto or provisional LMMOs.  Also, although the Department's draft Strategic Plan concluded that specified surplus nuclear reactor components contain rare isotopes that are virtually irreplaceable and vulnerable to be processed as waste for permanent disposal, the Department had not designated certain nuclear materials as National Assets to enable their retention and continued availability.

We determined that Department officials are in discussions with program offices to designate additional LMMOs as warranted, and are working to identify materials for National Asset designation.  We made two suggestions to further strengthen the nuclear materials management program.  First, the Department should finalize its efforts to formally designate LMMOs to facilitate the integration and coordination of nuclear materials disposition; and second, complete the determination for the types and quantities of surplus nuclear materials containing valuable isotopes to be preserved for future programmatic and national needs before the opportunity is lost.

Topic: Environmental Cleanup