It will cost almost $1.5 billion more than expected to empty and seal 22 underground liquid radioactive waste tanks at South Carolina's Savannah River Site, according to a federal audit released Tuesday.
A December 2008 contract between the site and the U.S. Energy Department estimated costs at $3.2 billion. But in its report, the Government Accountability Office said those initial estimates were "not accurate or comprehensive," and that the project's actual cost had risen more than $1.4 billion, or some 44 percent, to about $4.6 billion.
"DOE's difficulties planning for and mitigating risks in the Savannah River Site's tank closure project appear to be a continuation of the department's history of difficulties in contract and project management," auditors wrote.
The audit also says Savannah River officials say not all the 22 tanks will be closed by the 2017 deadline.
The 310-square-mile Savannah River Site opened in the 1950s on the Georgia-South Carolina border, once producing tritium and plutonium for the nation's nuclear bomb program by dissolving spent nuclear reactor fuel.