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1 Introduction, Background, and Task

The Department of Energy's (DOE's) Environmental Management Science Program (EMSP) was created by the 104th Congress 1 to bring the nation's basic science infrastructure to bear on the massive environmental cleanup effort now under way in the DOE complex. According to DOE, the mission of the EMSP is to develop and fund a targeted, long-term research program that will result in transformational or break-through approaches for solving the department's environmental problems. The goal is to support research that will:

  • Lead to significantly lower cleanup costs and reduced risks to workers, the public, and the environment over the long term.

  • Bridge the gap between broad fundamental research that has wide-ranging applicability . . . and needs-driven applied technology.

  • Serve as a stimulus for focusing the nation's science infrastructure on critical national environmental management problems. (DOE, 2000g, pp. 1-2).

To meet these objectives the EMSP provides three-year awards to investigators in industry, national laboratories, and universities to undertake research on problems relevant to DOE cleanup efforts. Project awards are competitive and are made on the basis of merit and relevance reviews managed through a partnership between the DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM), which has the primary responsibility for the cleanup mission, and the DOE Office of Science, 2 which manages DOE basic research programs. Since its establishment by Congress, the program has held five proposal competitions and has

1Public Law 104-46, 1995.

2Formerly the Office of Energy Research.



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Page 9 1 Introduction, Background, and Task The Department of Energy's (DOE's) Environmental Management Science Program (EMSP) was created by the 104th Congress 1 to bring the nation's basic science infrastructure to bear on the massive environmental cleanup effort now under way in the DOE complex. According to DOE, the mission of the EMSP is to develop and fund a targeted, long-term research program that will result in transformational or break-through approaches for solving the department's environmental problems. The goal is to support research that will: Lead to significantly lower cleanup costs and reduced risks to workers, the public, and the environment over the long term. Bridge the gap between broad fundamental research that has wide-ranging applicability . . . and needs-driven applied technology. Serve as a stimulus for focusing the nation's science infrastructure on critical national environmental management problems. (DOE, 2000g, pp. 1-2). To meet these objectives the EMSP provides three-year awards to investigators in industry, national laboratories, and universities to undertake research on problems relevant to DOE cleanup efforts. Project awards are competitive and are made on the basis of merit and relevance reviews managed through a partnership between the DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM), which has the primary responsibility for the cleanup mission, and the DOE Office of Science, 2 which manages DOE basic research programs. Since its establishment by Congress, the program has held five proposal competitions and has 1Public Law 104-46, 1995. 2Formerly the Office of Energy Research.

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Page 10awarded about $265 million in funding, which puts it among the largest environmental research efforts in the federal government. Shortly after the program was established, DOE requested advice on its structure and management from the National Academies. In response, the National Academies established the Committee on Building an Effective Environmental Management Science Program, which operated from May 1996 through March 1997. One of the primary recommendations made by this committee was that DOE should develop a science plan for the EMSP. This science plan should provide a comprehensive list of significant cleanup problems in the nation's nuclear weapons complex that can be addressed through basic research and a strategy for addressing them (NRC, 1997, p. 3). That committee also recommended a near-term and a long-term process for developing this science plan: For the near term, program managers should develop a science plan from DOE documents. For the longer term, DOE should consult with its problem holders (i.e., site technical staff, managers, and stakeholder advisory groups that have knowledge of cleanup issues) about cleanup problems that cannot be resolved practically or efficiently with current knowledge or technologies. As one means of implementing the longer-term recommendation, Gerald Boyd, then Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Science and Technology (OST), requested that the National Academies convene a committee of experts in the spring of 1998. This committee advised DOE on its first science plan for the EMSP, which DOE had decided would address subsurface contamination. Following that initial study, Carolyn Huntoon, Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management, requested two additional studies. These studies would advise DOE on developing research agendas in two areas: high-level radioactive waste and deactivating and decommissioning nuclear facilities. In response, two committees were formed under the auspices of the Board on Radioactive Waste Management. This report provides the advice requested by DOE on facility deactivation and decommissioning (D&D). Statement of Task The statement of task for this study (see Sidebar 1.1 ) charged the committee to provide recommendations for a science research program for D&D problems at DOE sites. The committee was asked to identify areas of research where the program could make significant contributions to future D&D efforts and add to scientific knowledge generally.

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Page 11 SIDEBAR 1.1 STATEMENT OF TASK The objective of this study is to provide recommendations to DOE's EM Science Program on the development of a long-term basic research agenda that may lead to new technologies for the deactivation and decommissioning (D&D) of complex, highly contaminated facilities formerly used for the production of nuclear materials. The report will accomplish the following: Identify significant D&D problems that cannot be addressed effectively with current technologies. Recommend areas of research where the EM Science Program can make significant contributions to solving these problems and adding to scientific knowledge generally. In recommending specific areas of research, the committee should take into account, where possible, the agendas of other D&D-related research programs. The committee may also consider and make recommendations, as appropriate, on the processes by which (1) future research needs can be identified, and (2) successful research results can be applied to DOE's D&D problems. The committee was also invited to provide recommendations on processes for identifying future D&D research needs and for applying the results of successful research to DOE's D&D problems. On beginning this study, the committee was aware of the findings of previous studies directed at EM's cleanup task and the EMSP. The NRC Committee on Building an Environmental Management Science Program stated that “Many of EM's cleanup problems cannot be solved or even managed efficiently and safely with current technologies, in part owing to their tremendous size and scope. . . . Simply put, new technologies are required to deal with EM's most difficult problems, and new technologies demand new science” (NRC, 1997, pp. 1-2). In addition, a previous study of D&D technology development programs within OST found that, while incremental improvements of commercially available technologies are useful for near-term D&D problems, identification and development of truly new, innovative technologies needed for long-term problems were not being done effectively and new approaches were needed (NRC, 1998a). The committee held six meetings between March 2000 and January 2001 to gather information on the most significant long-term D&D challenges at five major DOE sites and to develop this report. 3 This fact 3See Appendix A for a summary of the committee's fact-finding activities.

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Page 12finding included briefings on D&D plans and challenges at the Hanford Site (Washington), Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Oak Ridge Site (Tennessee), Savannah River Site (South Carolina), and Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site (Colorado). The committee toured the Hanford, Oak Ridge, and Rocky Flats sites to observe the facilities and obtain briefings from site personnel. The committee focused primarily on scientific issues in keeping with its collective basic research expertise. The committee reviewed the future D&D challenges at major DOE sites (see Chapter 2) and provided recommendations on a research agenda to address these problems (see Chapter 4). The committee also considered the research being sponsored by other U.S. and non-U.S. programs as well as the projects supported in the current EMSP portfolio (see Chapter 3), so that unnecessary duplication of effort can be minimized. Processes for identifying future D&D research needs and for better applying the results of successful research are suggested in Chapter 5. The committee also produced an interim report to advise the EMSP on its fiscal year 2001 proposal call. That report is given in Appendix C.