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Summary The Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requested that the National Research Council review the Integration Project's science and technology (S&T) program at the Hanford Site and provide recommendations to improve its technical merit and relevance to DOE's remediation decisions, with particular attention to the following issues: 1. the technical merit of the S&T work to be carried out under the program, including its likely contribution to advancing the state of scientific knowledge; 2. the relevance and timeliness of the planned S&T work to DOE remediation decisions at the Hanford Site; and 3. the potential applicability of S&T results to contamination problems at other DOE sites. The requested recommendations are provided in this report. The summary is organized according to the three points of the study charge shown above. CHARGE 1: ASSESS THE TECHNICAL MERIT OF THE S&T WORK TO BE CARRIED OUT UNDER THE PROGRAM, INCLUDING ITS LIKELY CONTRIBUTION TO ADVANCING THE STATE OF SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE The committee reviewed the S&T projects under way or planned in the seven technical elements of the S&T program (inventory, vadose zone, groundwater, Columbia River, monitoring, remediation, and risk). The committee also reviewed the Integration Project's System Assessment Capability to identify important knowledge gaps that should be addressed by S&T. Detailed comments and recommendations are provided in Chapters 4 through 9 of this report. The S&T program is at an early stage of development, and many aspects of the program exist only on paper. Moreover, detailed written plans do not exist for most individual S&T projects. Consequently, this review of the S&T program is based primarily on committee members' general knowledge and understancling of relevant scientific and engineering disciplines and Hanford Site problems. The committee concludes that, in general, the work to be carried out under the S&T program appears on the surface to be technically meritorious and is likely, in at least some cases, to make important 1
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2 Science and Technology for Environmental Cleanup contributions to advancing scientific knowledge. This conclusion is qualified, however, because documentation on most projects was insufficient to evaluate in detail either the precise scope of work to be done or its technical merit.' Consequently, the committee's evaluations are based on the stated objectives and expected results, not on actual results or detailed study designs or work plans. Although the SOT program has made a good start, its success is by no means guaranteed. The committee concludes that improvements are needed in the processes used to document and select S&T projects, and to this end, the committee offers the following two recommendations: 1. The Integration Project should develop and implement guidelines for documenting the objectives, technical study designs, work plans, work products, work schedules, and costs for its S&T projects (Chapter 10~. 2. Peer review should be used for program prioritization, selection of S&T projects to be funded, and periodic assessments of multlyear projects to ensure that they continue to meet program objectives. Most immediately, peer review should be established to provide continuing oversight of the vadose zone field transport studies (Chapter 6~. CHARGE 2: ASSESS THE RELEVANCE AND TIMELINESS OF THE PLANNED SOT WORK TO DOE REMEDIATION DECISIONS AT THE HANFORD SITE The committee finds that there is a long-term need for S&T to support cleanup and stewardship of the Hanford Site. According to DOE, environmental cleanup at Hanford is slated to last until at least 2046 and to cost upward of $85 billion, and after this active phase of cleanup is complete the federal government's stewardship responsibilities will last for centuries. The knowledge and technology needed to address the most difficult problems at the site do not yet exist, and advances will not be possible without continuing investments in SOT. The committee also finds that given the technical and organizational complexity of the task, the Integration Project has made a good start in creating an S&T roadmap, defining and initiating an S&T program, and fulfilling the promise of its mission. The Integration Project appears to have rapidly developed an S&T portfolio that blends well with There were two clear exceptions to this statement: Environmental Management Science Program projects, and some of the projects under the Vadose Zone Technical Element, particularly the vadose zone transport field studies, were well documented.
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Summary the activities and needs of the core projects and in this sense is performing well in its "integration" role. The S&T work under way by the S&T program appears, in general, to be broadly relevant to remediation decisions to be made at the site. This conclusion is qualified, however, because the program lacks a systematic framework for identifying and addressing the uncertainties in knowledge, or "knowledge gaps," that are an impediment to progress in site cleanup. At this early stage of site cleanup, major knowledge gaps are relatively easy to identify, and the S&T program appears to have focused its limited resources on many of these important gaps, particularly with respect to characterization of contamination and hydrologic properties of the vadose zone. However, this ad hoc approach probably will not work as well as the cleanup program matures and a long-term stewardship program is initiated and implemented. In particular, this approach will make it difficult to uncover long-term research needs, which are not easily identified, even in well-planned programs. The committee's review of the technical elements uncovered several knowledge gaps that are not now being addressed adequately by the S&T program. The committee recommends that addressing these gaps, which are summarized below, should be made a high priority of the S&T program: · Development of cost-effective strategies and methods for characterization of contaminant distributions and subsurface properties of the vadose zone (Chapter 5~. · Development of advanced monitoring methods for the vadose zone and Columbia River (Chapters 6 and 7~. Development of improved barrier technologies, including surface barriers, vertical and inclined cutoff barriers, and reactive barriers (Chapter 9~. · Evaluation of the probabilities and consequences of extreme events on Hanford Site contaminants particularly the effects of catastrophic glacial flooding, which has inundated the site repeatedly during the last 100,000 years and as recently as 15,000 years ago (Chapter 9 - as well as the sensitivity of long-term impacts estimated by the System Assessment Capability to the assumed 1,000-year time scale for peak risk. The committee also recommends some reprioritization of S&T work to improve its timeliness and relevance to Hanford Site cleanup . . ,eclslons: · The planned work on upscaling under the auspices of the Vadose Zone Technical Element should be initiated as soon as possible
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4 Science and Technology for Environmental Cleanup (Chapter 6~. The lack of early emphasis on an upscaling framework is a serious weakness of the current plans because this framework should play a central role in the design of the field experiments, and also can be used to more directly assess the impact of new information in remediation decisions, thereby providing a basis for setting research · ·. — prlorlues. · Most of the planned work on generic issues under the auspices of the Risk Technical Element should not be funded by the Integration Project (Chapter 9~. This work is more appropriate for national research programs in DOE and other federal agencies. The timeliness of the planned work is difficult to judge given the lack of a strong linkage between S&T and site decisions, as noted previously, as well as the small size and instability of the budget for the S&T program. On the one hand, the small size of the budget ($4.6 million in fiscal year 2001 ) may not allow substantial progress to be made in addressing the identified knowledge gaps. Moreover, the lack of stable funding is impeding the Integration Project's ability to plan and execute its work in fact, current SOT work schedules already have been delayed by reductions from the planned budget baseline developed in 1998. On the other hand, S&T is being carried out by other organizations at Hanford and DOE Headquarters, so the total investment in S&T is much greater than indicated by the Integration Project's S&T budget. S&T work across the Office of Environmental Management (EM) and the Hanford Site is not organized or reviewed on a system basis, however, so it is not clear how projects and budgets are being prioritized. Relevance and timeliness may also be affected by a lack of clarity concerning project ownership. That is, it is not clear who "owns" the S&T projects or whether these owners are being held accountable for progress and costs. Successful management structures usually have clear lines of authority and accountability, and many organizations vest authority and accountability in a single centralized entity. The current structure does not appear to provide this clear management responsibility. The committee offers the following three recommendations to improve the relevance and timeliness of the S&T work performed under the auspices of the Integration Project: 1. The Integration Project should develop and implement a system for prioritizing its SOT activities to provide the information that Hanford Site management will need to make sound and durable cleanup and stewardship decisions. Procedures are needed to identify key uncertainties in knowledge and determine whether and how these uncertainties could be reduced cost-effectively through further S&T work.
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Summary 5 To this end, the System Assessment Capability (Chapter 4) may be a useful tool to help set S&T priorities. 2. The Integration Project should, with the help of EM as necessary, perform a system-based analysis of its funding needs for the S&T program once it develops the prioritization process recommended above. Such an analysis can provide a sound basis for technically defensible funding requests. 3. The Integration Project should review its organization to ensure that ownership, authority, and accountability for the S&T program are clearly defined and assigned. Given the number of organizations involved in S&T and cleanup activities at the Hanford Site, help from DOE management above the level of the Integration Project may be needed to carry out this recommendation. CHARGE 3: ASSESS THE POTENTIAL APPLICABILITY OF SOT RESULTS TO CONTAMINATION PROBLEMS AT OTHER DOE SITES The committee clid not investigate S&T needs at other DOE sites, so it did not devote much time to addressing this part of its charge. In a sense this question is premature because the S&T program is new and few results are available for transfer. The committee's response to this charge is based primarily on members' knowledge of other DOE sites. The committee judges that many of the results of S&T work at Hanford are potentially applicable to other DOE sites and, more generally, to other contaminated sites in arid regions. The development of the Integration Project S&T roadmap involved experts from national laboratories and other DOE sites. Perhaps as a consequence, many of the current and planned S&T projects address first-orcler scientific questions—for example, the development of upscaling techniques (Chapter 6, Appendix C), elucidation of radionuclide and chemical fate and transport in the subsurface (Chapters 6, 7), and evaluation of the impacts of contaminants on biological systems (Chapter 8~. Moreover, some of the planned or committee-recommended S&T work could lead to new technologies that could be applied at Hanford and other DOE sites. Most importantly, the development of techniques for environmental characterization and monitoring, especially in the vadose zone (Chapters 5, 6), and the development of new remecliation and containment methods, especially subsurface barriers (Chapter 9), could, with appropriate technology transfer, find widespread application across the DOE complex.
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