DOE Inspector General Finds Project Management Problems for Nuclear Weapons Life Extension Programs


play3In the fourth report released this month about documented problems with schedule, cost and risk management at the Department of Energy (DOE) sites in New Mexico, the latest addresses on-going management problems with the estimated $8.1 billion, high risk Life Extension Program for the Model B61-12 nuclear weapon.  See, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General, Office of Audits and Inspections, August 18, 2016 AUDIT REPORT:  National Nuclear Security Administration’s Management of the B61-12 Life Extension Program, DOE-OIG-16-15,; Government Accountability Office (GAO) August 11, 2016 Report to Congressional Committees:  NUCLEAR SUPPLY CHAIN:  DOE Should Assess Circumstances for Using Enhanced Procurement Authority to Manage Risk, GAO-16-710,; GAO August 9, 2016 Report to the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate:  DOE PROJECT MANAGEMENT:  NNSA Needs to Clarify Requirements for Its Plutonium Analysis Project at Los Alamos, GAO-16-585,;  and GAO August 4, 2016 Report to Congressional Committees:  NUCLEAR WASTE:  Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Recovery Demonstrates Cost and Schedule Requirements Needed for DOE Cleanup Operations, GAO-16-608,

The DOE Inspector General audited work being done at eight DOE facilities across the country with a focus on design facilities at Sandia National Laboratory, in Albuquerque, and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  DOE expects the first life extended B61-12 nuclear weapon to be completed by March 2020.

The B61-12 Life Extension Program is a consolidated process for the replacement of nuclear and non-nuclear parts, such as detonator cables, to extend the life of this weapon for 20 years.  During this phase, the program involves designing new parts before an engineering phase leading to the first production phase.  New military capabilities, such as improved accuracy and the ability to change the height of the detonation, are being incorporated into the design., p. 9.

Project management includes maintaining a detailed master schedule for all tasks being done across the country.  The master schedule should ensure that the project comes in on time and on cost.  Further, each site has its own schedule.  Under project management requirements, both schedules should align.

The auditors found that in some cases the schedules did not align.  For example, the auditors found a 17-month discrepancy between the master schedule and the LANL schedule for qualification of a primary main charge used in the nuclear explosive package., p. 4.  The auditors also found discrepancies of 100 working days or more between the two schedules in 24 percent of the cases for components to be developed at Sandia and LANL., p. 4.

Problems identifying risk to the cost, schedule and performance of the B61-12 and efforts to mitigate the risk were also highlighted.  Both the risks and the mitigation measures should be included in both schedules.  For example, testing newly designed components in flight tests and in extreme hot and cold thermal environments would mitigate the risk of the component failure.  The auditors found that 75 percent of the high to moderate risks identified at Sandia and LANL were not linked to the mitigation actions in the schedule., p. 8 – 9.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, “This is the fourth critical Untitled-313report released this month about basic DOE project management problems for high-risk projects in New Mexico that cost astronomical amounts of taxpayer money.  Please contact your congressional members and ask them to look seriously at these problems and put a halt to these projects until project management problems are corrected.”



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