Nuclear Waste: Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Recovery Demonstrates Cost and Schedule Requirements Needed for DOE Cleanup Operations, GAO-16-608: Published: Aug 4, 2016. Publicly Released: Aug 4, 2016.
“The Department of Energy (DOE) did not meet its initial cost and schedule estimates for restarting nuclear waste disposal operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), resulting in a cost increase of about $64 million and a delay of nearly 9 months. DOE incurred this cost increase and delay partly because it did not follow all best practices in developing the cost and schedule estimates. In particular, DOE’s schedule did not include extra time, or contingency, to account for known project risks. Instead, DOE estimated it would restart waste operations in March 2016 based on a schedule with no contingency that gave DOE less than a 1 percent chance of meeting its restart date. In January 2016, DOE approved new estimates that added 8.5 months to the schedule, extending the restart to December 2016; increased the estimated cost of recovery by $2 million; and resulted in an additional $61.6 million in costs for operating WIPP in fiscal year 2016. DOE’s WIPP operations activity manager said the revised schedule included contingency. However, according to DOE officials, they did not follow other best practices. For example, DOE did not provide evidence of having an independent cost estimate to validate the revised estimate. DOE did not follow all best practices for cost and schedule estimates in part because DOE does not require that its cleanup operations, such as WIPP, follow these practices. Therefore, DOE cannot have confidence that its estimates are reliable. In contrast, DOE established new requirements in June 2015 that its capital asset projects, such as the new ventilation system at WIPP, follow these best practices. By also requiring cleanup operations to follow them, DOE would have more confidence in the estimates for cleanup operations and capital asset projects.”