GAO Report Concludes Program’s Technology “Unproven,” Could Cost More Than $44 Billion Per Plant

, D.C.Today, Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, welcomed the release of a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that calls into question the Bush administration’s plans to rush ahead with construction of commercial scale nuclear material reprocessing facilities and the spread of nuclear power around the world.

"This report brings a much-needed dose of reality to the Bush administration's eternally sunny outlook on this deeply troubled program," said Rep. Markey. "Given all the concerns over this administration's nuclear plans, GNEP ought to stand for Good for Nothing Energy Program. Congress has repeatedly refused, on a bi-partisan basis, to fully fund the president's requests for this dangerous and unnecessary program. Enough is enough, it's time to say goodbye to GNEP."

The full report entitled, "Global Nuclear Energy Partnership: DOE Should Reassess Its Approach to Designing and Building Spent Nuclear Fuel Recycling Facilities" is available here.

The GAO report finds that DOE's plan to rush to the construction of commercial scale GNEP facilities without performing critical research and development is unlikely to successfully meet the key GNEP program goals on nuclear nonproliferation or spent fuel management. The report also noted the DOE's "poor record of managing major design and construction projects, particularly those that use new technologies," as further reason for skepticism about DOE's ability to successfully develop the futuristic technologies necessary for GNEP.

President Bush unveiled GNEP in early 2006 as a long-term program to restart U.S. civilian spent fuel reprocessing and dramatically expand the use of nuclear power around the world. The United States abandoned nuclear reprocessing, which is the same technology used to extract plutonium for use in nuclear weapons, in the 1970s due to its high costs, environmental and health consequences, and a desire to discourage the spread of nuclear weapons-related technologies around the world.

Using the DOE's own guideline for scaling up facilities of different sizes, the report concluded that the cost of the envisioned GNEP reprocessing plant alone could be "significantly higher than $44 billion." While the Bush administration has consistently argued that the nuclear industry would play a leading role in funding a new reprocessing scheme, the GAO report concluded that, "DOE is unlikely to meet its goal of deploying the facilities in a way that will not require a large amount of government funding."

The Congress has repeatedly cut the president's funding requests for GNEP.  Today the House will vote on the Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2009, which cuts the president's entire $6.9 million request for GNEP within the energy department's nuclear nonproliferation account.

Rep. Markey concluded, "President Bush's GNEP proposal to radically expand the most dangerous nuclear technologies in existence is destructive to the environment, damaging to the nuclear nonproliferation regime, and devastating to the budget. The United States simply cannot afford to allow President Bush to hit this trifecta."

Rep. Markey was a co-requestor of the report along with the Senate Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the House Science and Technology Committee.



May 22, 2008

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer, (Markey) 202.225.2836
Eben Burnham-Snyder, (Select Cmte) 202.225.4081