July 20, 2020
The Department of Energy’s Storage and Disposition of Explosives Material at Selected Sites
The Department of Energy manages a significant portfolio of explosives material across its complex of National Laboratories and other facilities to carry out elements of its diversified mission. The Department’s research and development operations involve a wide variety of explosive devices and materials such as rocket motors, propellants, bulk explosives, shaped charges, artillery shells, ammunition, and detonators. These explosives are utilized for many different types of research and testing operations, including environmental testing, component testing and modeling, and performance testing.
We found that the three sites reviewed were generally storing and disposing of explosives material in accordance with Federal and Department of Energy requirements. However, we noted weaknesses at all three sites that potentially limit the effectiveness of explosives material control, accountability, and safety. Specifically, we identified weaknesses with control and accountability related to site database inventory systems, physical inventories, and errors in identification labels. While we identified weaknesses at all three sites, we made the determination that the weaknesses at one site may have been more significant due to the limitations identified in its record-keeping process.
We attributed these weaknesses at the three sites to issues in overall explosives inventory controls, including tracking and accountability from acquisition to disposition. Additionally, sites’ policies and procedures did not always include steps that met the requirements of a physical inventory or have an effective process to regularly update or replace physical identification labels. Further, sites did not have adequate controls in place to ensure that incompatible explosives material was not moved to or stored in prohibited areas, and storage reviews were not always completed.
To address the issues identified in this report, we have made five recommendations that, if fully implemented, should help ensure that explosives are properly stored, accounted for, and disposed of in accordance with Federal regulations and Department standards.