Overview

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) fiscal year 2009 budget request put the potential cost of removing or remediating radioactive waste and other contamination at its former nuclear weapons production sites between $265 billion and $305 billion over the next approximately 30 years.1 DOE has stated that this work, which is being conducted by its Office of Environmental Management (EM), represents one of the most technically challenging and complex cleanup efforts in the world. Furthermore, DOE noted that the future course of the Department’s environmental cleanup activities will depend on a number of fundamental technical and policy choices, many of which have not been made (DOE 2008a, p. 16).

To enhance its cleanup efforts, EM has invested in scientific research and technology development. The funding for these investments has been inconsistent and generally decreasing from a peak of almost $410 million in fiscal year 1995 to around $20 million per year recently—about 0.4 percent of EM’s overall budget. There has, however, been renewed interest in cleanup science and technology development, both within upper DOE management and in Congress. In early 2007, EM turned to the National Academies for assistance in preparing a congressionally requested engineering and technology roadmap to support the cleanup effort.

The statement of task for this study directed the committee to identify (1) principal science and technology gaps and their priorities for the cleanup program, (2) expertise and infrastructure at the national laboratories that should be maintained to address the higher priority cleanup challenges, and



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Overview The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) fiscal year 2009 budget request put the potential cost of removing or remediating radioactive waste and other contamination at its former nuclear weapons production sites be- tween $265 billion and $305 billion over the next approximately 30 years.1 DOE has stated that this work, which is being conducted by its Office of Environmental Management (EM), represents one of the most technically challenging and complex cleanup efforts in the world. Furthermore, DOE noted that the future course of the Department’s environmental cleanup activities will depend on a number of fundamental technical and policy choices, many of which have not been made (DOE 2008a, p. 16). To enhance its cleanup efforts, EM has invested in scientific research and technology development. The funding for these investments has been inconsistent and generally decreasing from a peak of almost $410 million in fiscal year 1995 to around $20 million per year recently—about 0.4 percent of EM’s overall budget. There has, however, been renewed interest in cleanup science and technology development, both within upper DOE management and in Congress. In early 2007, EM turned to the National Academies for assistance in preparing a congressionally requested engineer- ing and technology roadmap to support the cleanup effort. The statement of task for this study directed the committee to identify (1) principal science and technology gaps and their priorities for the cleanup program, (2) expertise and infrastructure at the national laboratories that should be maintained to address the higher priority cleanup challenges, and 1 See http://www.cfo.doe.gov/budget/09budget/Content/Volumes/Volume5.pdf. 

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 ADVICE ON THE DOE’S CLEANUP TECHNOLOGY ROADMAP (3) strategic opportunities to leverage research and development (R&D) with other organizations. The committee was asked to focus on the DOE’s four major cleanup sites: the Hanford Reservation, Washington; the Idaho National Laboratory; the Oak Ridge Reservation, Tennessee; and the Sa- vannah River Site, South Carolina. The committee chose as its working definition that a gap is a shortfall in available knowledge or technology that could prevent EM from accom- plishing a cleanup task on its expected schedule and/or budget. Using this definition, the committee identified and detailed 13 gaps in areas of tank waste retrieval and processing, groundwater and soil remediation, and facility deactivation and decommissioning that could adversely affect EM’s ability to meet its cleanup milestones on time and/or on budget. In order to conduct R&D toward bridging these gaps, the sites and national laborato- ries will need to maintain certain critical expertise and infrastructure for: • Handling radioactive materials, • Conducting engineering and pilot-scale tests, • Determining contaminant behavior in the environment, and • Utilizing relevant state-of-the-art science to develop advanced cleanup technologies. EM’s Office of Engineering and Technology should partner with other DOE offices, other federal agencies, academia, and the private sector in order to provide the needed science and technology for advanced cleanup methodologies. Partnering with these other resources can provide the low- est cost means to address technology gaps in EM’s roadmap in two im- portant ways: (1) it takes advantage of science and technology relevant to its cleanup task that is being developed in other laboratories throughout the world, and (2) it keeps to a minimum the R&D for which EM has to provide direct and total support. EM can bring to its partnerships unique onsite facilities, detailed data on its groundwater and soil contamination, and decades of experience in managing radioactive wastes. The committee provided findings and recommendations in two areas: (1) improving the EM roadmap so that it clearly details the role of R&D in the EM cleanup mission, and (2) roadmapping R&D programs that utilize national laboratory, site, and private-sector capabilities to bridge the science and technology gaps identified by the committee. This report concludes with the committee’s observations on how EM’s Office of Engineering and Technology can enhance its role in leading EM’s R&D programs.