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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Committee on Remediation of Buried and Tank Wastes has spent several years studying various scientific and technical issues related to the environmental remediation of the defense radioactive waste sites managed by the Department of Energy. A variety of problems have been noted: 1) planning that is driven by existing organizational structures rather than problems to be solved; 2) commitments that are made without adequately considering technical feasibility, cost, and schedule; 3) an inability to look at more than one alternative at a time; 4) priorities that are driven by narrow interpretations of regulations rather than the regulations’ purpose of protecting public health and the environment; 5) the production of documents as an end in itself, rather than as a means to achieve a goal; 6) a lack of organizational coordination; and 7) a “not-invented-here” syndrome at individual sites. The committee observes a common pattern of behavior in these problems: What happens is driven too often by the internal needs of the organizations charged with the remediation work rather than by the overall goal of environmental remediation. Efforts to remedy this situation must involve not only the Department of Energy, but also external stakeholders who have influenced its ways of doing business, including Congress, involved states, and the public.



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Barriers to Science: Technical Management of the Department of Energy Environmental Remediation Program EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Committee on Remediation of Buried and Tank Wastes has spent several years studying various scientific and technical issues related to the environmental remediation of the defense radioactive waste sites managed by the Department of Energy. A variety of problems have been noted: 1) planning that is driven by existing organizational structures rather than problems to be solved; 2) commitments that are made without adequately considering technical feasibility, cost, and schedule; 3) an inability to look at more than one alternative at a time; 4) priorities that are driven by narrow interpretations of regulations rather than the regulations’ purpose of protecting public health and the environment; 5) the production of documents as an end in itself, rather than as a means to achieve a goal; 6) a lack of organizational coordination; and 7) a “not-invented-here” syndrome at individual sites. The committee observes a common pattern of behavior in these problems: What happens is driven too often by the internal needs of the organizations charged with the remediation work rather than by the overall goal of environmental remediation. Efforts to remedy this situation must involve not only the Department of Energy, but also external stakeholders who have influenced its ways of doing business, including Congress, involved states, and the public.

OCR for page 1
Barriers to Science: Technical Management of the Department of Energy Environmental Remediation Program This page in the original is blank.