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Better analysis of DOE safety reforms needed, GAO says

May 30, 2012

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Washington – Benefits from the Department of Energy’s recent safety reforms are unclear, and reforms have failed to fully address some safety concerns, according to a Government Accountability Office report (.pdf file).

DOE sites conduct research on nuclear materials, such as plutonium, and handle the disposal of radioactive and hazardous waste. Under the reform effort, DOE eliminated or combined several requirements deemed unclear or duplicative.

Following a review of those efforts, GAO reported that DOE’s quality assurance, safety culture and federal oversight was lacking. GAO recommended DOE conduct a cost-benefit analysis of its reforms and identify how the reforms address safety concerns.

DOE agreed with the recommendations, but said it has “significant concerns” regarding the accuracy of the report’s findings and the validity of its conclusions. It suggested the report’s “mischaracterizations” of the department’s approach to revising and streamlining processes to improve safety could mislead stakeholders and the public. GAO said it stands by its findings and conclusions.

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