Nuclear Nonproliferation: DOE Action Needed to Ensure Continued Recovery of Unwanted Sealed Radioactive Sources, Report to the Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Financial Management, the Budget, and International Security, Committee on Governmental Affairs, U.S.Senate   [open pdf - 2MB]

"Public Law 99-240 requires the Department of Energy (DOE) provide a facility for disposing of unwanted sealed sources containing greater-than-Class-C radioactive material. Because DOE has no disposal facility for these sources, its Off-Site Source Recovery Project is temporarily storing them at Los Alamos, New Mexico. GAO was asked to determine (1) the number of unwanted sealed sources that DOE plans to recover through 2010 and the estimated cost, (2) the status of recovery efforts and any problems that DOE may face, and (3) the status of DOE's efforts to provide a disposal facility for these sealed sources. The exact number of unwanted greater-than-Class-C sealed sources in the United States is unknown, but DOE estimates it will recover about 14,300 such sources by the end of fiscal year 2010, at a total cost of about $69 million. Through February 2003, DOE's Off-Site Source Recovery Project had recovered more than 5,000 greater-than-Class-C sealed sources from about 160 sites across the United States; however, the project faces three problems that could hinder future recovery efforts. First, the project is not a priority with DOE's Office of Environmental Management. Second, DOE cannot recover any additional sealed sources containing plutonium-239 because the project has already run out of space at the Los Alamos National Laboratory that meets DOE's higher security standards for storing these sources. Third, DOE has not approved a means for storing sealed sources containing strontium-90 and cesium-137 until a permanent disposal facility is available. As of February 2003, DOE had not made progress toward providing for the permanent disposal of greater-than-Class-C radioactive sealed sources."

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