Executive Summary

More than 7,000 radioactively contaminated buildings located on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sites that formerly produced nuclear defense materials must be decontaminated, and about 700 buildings are to be decommissioned fully. In addition, concrete and some 180,000 metric tons of scrap metal within these facilities must be dealt with. This decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) work is a significant part of the overall DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM) program to remediate the Cold War legacy.

The Office of Science and Technology (OST) within EM (EM-50) is charged with assuring that safe, cost-effective technologies are available for the entire remediation program. To address D&D technology needs, OST established and staffed a program, now referred to as the Deactivation and Decommissioning Focus Area (DDFA), in 1994.1 At the request of OST the National Research Council (NRC) convened a Committee on Decontamination and Decommissioning to assess the utility and effectiveness of programmatic approaches used by the DDFA during the period 1996–97.2 An initial review of all of OST's technology development activities was completed in 1995 (NRC, 1996).

1  

The DDFA was one of five focus areas established in 1994. A brief history of EM-50 and its programs is given in Chapter 1.

2  

To be referred to as the D&D committee (or the committee) throughout this report. This committee is successor to a subcommittee (of the same name) of the Committee on Environmental Management Technologies (CEMT). The CEMT subcommittees were reorganized as independent committees under the National Research Council's Board on Radioactive Waste Management in 1997. The D&D committee's Statement of Task is given in Appendix A.



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--> Executive Summary More than 7,000 radioactively contaminated buildings located on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sites that formerly produced nuclear defense materials must be decontaminated, and about 700 buildings are to be decommissioned fully. In addition, concrete and some 180,000 metric tons of scrap metal within these facilities must be dealt with. This decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) work is a significant part of the overall DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM) program to remediate the Cold War legacy. The Office of Science and Technology (OST) within EM (EM-50) is charged with assuring that safe, cost-effective technologies are available for the entire remediation program. To address D&D technology needs, OST established and staffed a program, now referred to as the Deactivation and Decommissioning Focus Area (DDFA), in 1994.1 At the request of OST the National Research Council (NRC) convened a Committee on Decontamination and Decommissioning to assess the utility and effectiveness of programmatic approaches used by the DDFA during the period 1996–97.2 An initial review of all of OST's technology development activities was completed in 1995 (NRC, 1996). 1   The DDFA was one of five focus areas established in 1994. A brief history of EM-50 and its programs is given in Chapter 1. 2   To be referred to as the D&D committee (or the committee) throughout this report. This committee is successor to a subcommittee (of the same name) of the Committee on Environmental Management Technologies (CEMT). The CEMT subcommittees were reorganized as independent committees under the National Research Council's Board on Radioactive Waste Management in 1997. The D&D committee's Statement of Task is given in Appendix A.

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--> The D&D committee has spent considerable time and effort reviewing both the technology and process issues that have confronted OST and its DDFA over the past two years as the DDFA has sought to identify and promote deployment of improved D&D technologies for the cleanup of DOE sites. During this time, a cornerstone of the DDFA effort has been the Large-Scale Demonstration Program (LSDP). The initial three of these demonstrations were visited and reviewed in depth by committee members. Although OST policies and programs continue to evolve, this report summarizes the committee's findings pertinent to the LSDP and the general mission of the DDFA. Regardless of any continuing changes in programs and organization, the committee believes that the lessons learned from this review will be applicable to any future D&D undertakings by EM. Significant Findings and Recommendations The committee found that the DDFA generally has failed to meet its objective to promote DOE site-wide deployments of new technologies. The LSDP, the main deployment approach used by the DDFA, lacked planning and did not meet its schedules or goals during the committee's review. Prompt dissemination of sufficient technical and cost data to encourage site managers to adopt successfully demonstrated technologies was not achieved, nor were the LSDPs able to overcome institutional barriers to new technologies. While the DDFA has scored some successes and made conscientious efforts to improve its technology implementation record, which the committee recognizes, less has resulted from the application of truly novel technologies than expected at the program's inception. Widespread user acceptance of the demonstrated technologies has not occurred. In his final presentation to the committee on December 10, 1997, Gerald Boyd, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science and Technology, acknowledged that the LSDP inaugurated in 1995 had not produced the acceptance and deployment of clean-up technologies that OST had hoped (Boyd, 1997b). The committee therefore recommends that OST and DDFA substantially revise the LSDP or phase it out. Other significant findings made by the committee are the following: There is a lack of top-down evaluation and prioritization of DDFA activities.3 The committee found that existing approaches to prioritization such as the ''National Needs Assessment" reflect a bottom-up approach, which is inadequate for complex-wide planning (DOE, 1996a). The Linkage Tables by which potential or available technologies were coupled with D&D needs show no discernible prioritization (DOE, 1997a). DOE/OST is aware of this situation and is in the process of updating its strategic planning (Boyd, 1997a). 3   This finding was raised in the CEMT report (NRC, 1996).

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--> There is no apparent linkage between the initial set of priorities given in the "National Needs Assessment" and technologies that have been selected and funded for development by the DDFA, for example, those selected for the LSDP. The DDFA has no systematic plan that will encourage the deployment of new technologies. In particular, the present approaches for assessing the success of a new technology and the process by which its performance can be compared with an existing baseline technology are incomplete and inconsistent. Convincing documentation of successfully demonstrated technologies was not available during the committee's review period. DOE/OST is aware of this situation (Boyd, 1997a). End states of the facilities that will undergo D&D are not defined adequately. Without defining "how clean is clean enough" the necessary technology, cost, and schedule for a D&D project cannot be determined.4 While the definition of end states is beyond the responsibility of OST and its DDFA, it is critical to judging the success of DDFA in developing technologies that will meet EM's future needs. Given that the definition of actual facility end states is beyond the responsibility of OST-DDFA, there is no barrier to their defining reasonable, target end states to serve as indicators of applications where new technologies are likely to be needed and to serve as benchmarks for evaluating new technologies. The DDFA has not made significant progress in defining such end states. Because of the historical autonomy of individual DOE sites, there is no mechanism to ensure implementation of OST-developed technologies. As long as authority and responsibility continue to reside in different entities, centralized development of technologies to be deployed throughout the DOE complex will not, in the committee's view, be effective. This problem is clearly beyond OST's scope or jurisdiction, but a solution is essential for the DDFA to be successful. The capabilities residing in the private, academic, and foreign sectors for providing advanced D&D technologies are not being identified or utilized by the DDFA effectively. To assist the DDFA in improving its efficiency, especially as it revises the LSDP and makes further efforts to achieve greater deployment of new D&D technologies, the committee makes the following recommendations: The DDFA should improve its strategic planning. Top management in OST, rather than reporting elements, should evaluate and prioritize the technology needs of the operating sites. 4   The many facilities in the DOE complex will be remediated to varying degrees. Some facilities will be cleaned sufficiently for re-use; others will be restored to greenfield. A plethora of possible end states therefore exists. The concept of end states is discussed in Chapter 2.

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--> OST and the DDFA should link all actions and funding to the prioritized needs. DDFA should define reasonable target end states for D&D technologies to achieve. DDFA should improve its approach for introducing and gaining acceptance of demonstrated technology. OST and DDFA should develop and apply a uniform and consistent approach to comparative technology assessment across all projects. DDFA should be more aware of technologies developed in the private, academic, and foreign sectors. DDFA should communicate its program results in a more effective and timely manner. DDFA should establish a better connection between university and industry programs and prioritized long-term needs.