Category Archives: DOE IG

IG report raises flags on UCOR cost claims

An assessment by the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General raised questions about hundreds of thousands of dollars of costs incurred by DOE’s Oak Ridge cleanup contractor — URS/CH2M Oak Ridge — but UCOR said it resolved all of the issues before the report was made public this week.ucorpic

The IG regularly conducts reviews of DOE’s managing contractors to evaluate whether costs claimed under their federal contracts are allowable and properly accounted for during internal audit. The report released Wednesday looked at UCOR’s first three years on the job — Fiscal Years 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The report also said more than $250 million in subcontractor costs had not been audited for those first three years under UCOR’s leadership and those, too, are considered to be unresolved until the audits are completed. Continue reading

The word on U-233 at Oak Ridge

The old stockpile of uranium-233 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been an ongoing concern for years, with twists and turns in the planning process and always questions about the ultimate cost of the project. How many hundreds of millions of dollars is it going to take to get these fissionable and highly radioactive materials disposed of safely?3019

The Department of Energy, after protracted negotiations with the state of Nevada, is apparently proceeding with direct disposal of some of the U-233/U-235 stuff — characterized by its former life as “CEUSP” or Consolidated Edison Uranium Solidification Project — at the Nevada National Security Site. But there hasn’t been much said about those shipments from Oak Ridge to the Nevada desert, apparently because of security concerns regarding the cross-country transportation of sensitive materials. It’s not clear how much progress has been made in completing the CEUSP work.

There are, of course, other U-233 materials in storage at ORNL’s Building 3019 that have to be dealt with, and DOE has said it plans to downblend those materials with depleted uranium, apparently to eliminate the weapons-making potential, and dispose of them as low-level radioactive waste. Continue reading

Nevada contractor passes review of allowable costs

National Security Technologies, the managing contractor at the Nevada National Security Site, breezed through an assessment by DOE’s Office of Inspector General regarding the contractor’s handling of federal funds. Basically, the audit found that all questionable costs had been resolved, and the audit found no internal control weaknesses. There were no recommendations.

IG audit on Argonne’s allowable costs (FY2010-13)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General this week released an audit report of allowable costs claimed by the DOE contractor — UChicago Argonne LLC — at Argonne National Laboratory. While the audit did not uncover overall weaknesses that undermined the reliability of work performed at the lab, it did question some of the costs, which were resolved and/or recovered. Here’s the link.

Hazards outpace funding for old nuke facilities

alpha5picAerial view of the Alpha-5 building at the Y-12 National Security Complex. Below is an interior shot at Y-12. (NNSA photos)

The Alpha-5 building at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant is a notorious example of a big problem facing the U.S. Department of Energy.580299lores

Old nuclear facilities have outlived their usefulness, requiring their shutdown without the money available to clean them up or, in some cases, to keep them from falling apart and spreading their contamination.

Alpha-5, an original part of the World War II Manhattan Project, has been shut down for a more than decade, and it’s begging for attention.

The 613,000-square-foot building was used for multiple missions during the Cold War, and it’s thoroughly contaminated with uranium, mercury, beryllium and other hazards that have been made worse by the intrusion of water from an old and failing roof.

The basement is a swamp. About 2 million gallons of water have collected there, allowing toxic contaminants to mingle directly with the groundwater. And heavy moisture inside Alpha-5 has caused mold to grow like crazy, forcing the use of a respirator by anyone who ventures inside. Continue reading

Safety allegations at Y-12 not confirmed; IG report cites positives at Oak Ridge plant

y12signThe Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General investigated allegations that the contractor at Y-12 (Consolidated Nuclear Security) had “encouraged employees to ignore safety regulations” and made employees reluctant to report injuries for fear of reprisal.

The IG’s inspection, however, did not find evidence to support those allegations. In fact, the findings were generally positive.

Here’s an excerpt from the report’s summary: Continue reading

IG underscores concern about Y-12’s lithium capabilities

y12overviewA new audit report by the Department of Energy’s Office Of Inspector General criticizes Y-12’s management of the lithium production program and raises serious concerns. The report questions the plant’s ability to refurbish some nuclear weapons systems in the years ahead given the current conditions and echoes many of the national security issues raised earlier this year in a Government Accountability Office review — which said Y-12 could run out of weapons-grade lithium by 2018. Continue reading

IG’s report to Congress

In its twice-a-year report to Congress, this one covering the final six months of Fiscal Year 2015, the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General said it had issued 33 reporters during that period (29 audit and four inspection reports). According to the IG’s analysis, the work resulted in $4.6 million being “put to better use,” with $30.2 million recovered via fines, settlements or recoveries. Continue reading

News of note (briefly)

y12signConsolidated Nuclear Security, the government’s managing contractor at Y-12, said it recycled about 23,000 tons of asphalt that was removed during site preparations for the Uranium Processing Facility, According to info distributed by CNS, the ground-up material — known as “base course” — has been used to repair potholes on plant roads and to pave some gravel roads used for security patrols, etc. The recycled material reportedly will be put to use on other roads around the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge reservation. Here’s a quote from Brian Hutson, the contractor’s road and grounds manager: “With the tough winter we had earlier this year, we needed to fix some roads around the site. This material is good not only for fixing potholes and ruts, but it can be used to essentially pave a gravel road, and that makes it much easier for us to maintain it. Washouts are a big problem on some of our gravel patrol roads.” Continue reading

IG critiques the ORNL steam plant resolution

steamAn elevated view of the Boiler Operating Area at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s reconfigured Steam Plant. (ORNL photo/Jason Richards)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General this week issued an audit report that looked at the agency’s resolution of the steam plant problems at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. ORNL came to an agreement for a new gas-fired steam plant with Johnson Controls after the earlier biomass-fuel system failed to work as planned and created a hazardous environment.

Although the situation was reportedly resolved in a positive way, the IG identified some lingering issues. Continue reading