Mismanagement by the U.S.  Energy Dept. has added $196 million and three years to cleanup of a former nuclear fuel-processing site in West Valley, N.Y., said April Stephenson, DOE acting inspector general in an April 26 report. “The project was not administered using basic project management principles,” she said.

Neither DOE nor its contractor CH2M Hill-B&W West Valley had adequate baselines, well-defined scopes of work or systems to control and plan work, according to Stephenson. As a result, the contractor could not meet cleanup targets. DOE awarded in 2011 a $333-million, six-year contract to dispose of legacy waste by 2014, relocate high-level waste by 2015 and demolish the main plant and vitrification facilities by this August. 

West Valley was the site of a commercial nuclear fuel plant that reprocessed uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel from 1966 to 1972, the only plant of its kind. In that time, it generated 600,000 gallons of liquid high-level waste stored in underground tanks. DOE, responsible for cleanup as the primary waste contributor, developed a phased approach that required the waste to be solidified and sent to a permanent federal repository. By late 2015 the contract value rose by $196 million due to differing site conditions and inaccurate scope. For example, required demolition of the main plant omitted handling 222 containers of high-dose transuranic waste stored in it.

In a written response to GAO, DOE noted corrective actions. “Performance has substantially improved … with high-level waste-canister relocation completed well ahead of schedule and under cost,” said Susan Cange, acting agency assistant secretary. Neither DOE nor the contractor responded to requests for comment.