Audit Report: OAI-L-16-12

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July 1, 2016

Followup on the Office of Science’s Management of the Isotope Program

For over 50 years, the Department of Energy has been at the forefront of developing and producing stable and radioactive isotope products that are now used worldwide for hundreds of research, biomedical, security, and industrial applications that benefit society, including heart imaging, cancer therapy, smoke and explosive detectors, and oil exploration.  The Department’s Isotope Development and Production for Research and Applications Program, managed by the Office of Science’s (Science) Office of Nuclear Physics, produces isotopes where there is no U.S. private sector production capability or other production capacity is insufficient to meet U.S. needs.

We last reviewed the Program in 2005, when it was managed by the Office of Nuclear Energy, and issued an audit report on Management of the Department’s Isotope Program (DOE/IG 0709, November 2005). Our report made recommendations designed to help management revitalize the Program and permit it to better address the research community’s needs.

Nothing came to our attention to indicate that Science’s management of the Program was not generally effective.  We found that Program officials had addressed the issues identified in our prior report.  For example, Program officials revised pricing policies to make isotopes more affordable to the research community; invested in production facility infrastructure to refurbish aging equipment; and expanded production capabilities using funds received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  We also found that Program officials were forecasting to meet supply and demand for isotopes within the constraints of the Program’s limited resources; revenues from sales and related services adequately covered production costs; and sufficient balances were being maintained in the revolving fund to pay for critical program operations and mission needs.  However, we identified opportunities to improve controls in the areas of stable isotope leases and helium-3 (He-3) inventory.

Topic: Management & Administration