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GAO Official Sees Changes Ahead for Y-12 Uranium Initiative

A senior congressional auditor said plans for a bomb-uranium plant probably will not survive in their current form, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

The multibillion-dollar initiative appears set to be significantly revamped, GAO Assistant Director Jonathan Gill said in comments reported by the News Sentinel on Sunday. His comments appeared to diverge sharply from a U.S. lawmaker's recent assertion that the project would move forward essentially in its current form.

Congress has instructed the Government Accountability Office to maintain intensive tracking of the Uranium Processing Facility effort.

Gill attributed the high congressional interest in the project in part to doubts over the oversight capacities of the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous Energy Department office responsible for the nation's nuclear infrastructure.

The department lacked a formal procedure for projecting expenditures, and it based its original $1.1 billion maximum cost estimate on a "distantly related" uranium-storage project, according to the official. That figure has since increased by more than six-fold, and other projections for the project have ranged between $10 billion and $19 billion.

"Many of the issues that have plagued UPF are rooted in the bad old days of DOE and NNSA project management," he said. "They overpromised capabilities and underestimated costs."

The uranium site is slated for construction at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee, where it would take over duties currently handled by the decades-old "9212" structure.

"We’re back to the drawing board. And we’re not anywhere close to replacing 9212 capability. We’re not any closer," Gill said.

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