Audit Report: DOE-IG-0931

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January 23, 2015

The Department of Energy's Management of High-Risk Excess Facilities

In our prior report Department of Energy's Management of Unneeded Real Estate (OAS-L-14-07, April 2014), we noted a number of National Nuclear Security Administration facilities in poor condition that were categorized as excess or in shutdown mode without definitive plans for deactivation and decommissioning activities.  The degradation within these facilities ranged from failures in critical structural components to high levels of contamination.  Additionally, several of these facilities posed significant health and safety risks to Department of Energy (Department) employees and the public.  Given the issues identified in that report, and the risks associated with contaminated facilities, we initiated this audit to determine whether the Department has minimized the risk associated with excess contaminated non-Environmental Management facilities.

Our review found weaknesses in the Department's effort to address the risks associated with its inventory of contaminated facilities.  Specifically, our review found that a definitive transfer schedule for the 234 contaminated excess facilities awaiting deactivation and decommissioning activities had not been established; many contaminated excess facilities continue to deteriorate and pose increasing risks to mission, workers, the public, and the environment; and at least 140 additional excess contaminated facilities had been identified.

According to Department officials, budget realities, including resource constraints and the unstable nature of the budget process, were key to the delays in advancing the deactivation and decommissioning program.  Given budget and transfer time line uncertainties identified during this review, as well as the risks posed to health, safety, and the environment, we made recommendations designed to assist the Department in addressing its universe of excess contaminated facilities.

Topic: Management & Administration