A GAO report has found that the National Nuclear Security Administration has only planned for its U.S.-enriched uranium needs – used to produce tritium for nuclear weapons – through 2038.
It also found that the organization’s preliminary cost estimates for building a new enrichment capability are not reliable. NNSA has prepared cost estimates for the two uranium enrichment technology options that it considers to be most feasible, but GAO found these estimates are limited in scope and do not reflect best practices. While NNSA seems to favor an incremental approach to establishing capability, GAO found that its estimates only reflect the cost of the first increment, and do not reflect the full costs of building the facility. The report also found that the estimates excluded certain costs and did not describe the calculations used, although NNSA officials state these estimates are just preliminary.
GAO recommends that NNSA revise the scope of the mission-need statement to clarify which mission need it seeks to achieve, and adjust the range of options considered in the analysis of alternatives process. It also recommends that NNSA ensure its cost estimates are developed consistent with best practices.