INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

The Department of Energy's (DOEs) Environmental Management Science Program (EMSP) was created by mandate of the 104th Congress1; to focus the nation's research infrastructure on the department's environmental cleanup mission:

The conferees agree with the concern expressed by the Senate that the Department [of Energy] is not providing sufficient attention and resources to longer term basic science research which needs to be done to ultimately reduce cleanup costs. The current technology development program continues to favor near-term applied research efforts while failing to utilize the existing basic research infrastructure within the Department and the Office of Energy Research. As a result of this, the conferees direct that at least $50,000,000 of the technology development funding provided to the environmental management program in fiscal year 1996 be managed by the Office of Energy Research and used to develop a program that takes advantage of laboratory and university expertise. This funding is to be used to stimulate the required basic research, development and demonstration efforts to seek new and innovative cleanup methods to replace current conventional approaches which are often costly and ineffective.

A working partnership between the Office of Environmental Management (EM) and the Office of Energy Research (ER) was begun in 1994 to establish a basic research program focused on EM needs. The importance of basic scientific research to the cleanup mission has been established in several reports, most recently the report of the Galvin commission, entitled Alternative Futures for the Department of Energy National

1  

Public Law 104-46, 1995. The text is from the conference report that accompanied H.R. 1905 (Energy and Water Development Appropriation Bill).



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BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SCIENCE PROGRAM:: INITIAL ASSESSMENT INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND The Department of Energy's (DOEs) Environmental Management Science Program (EMSP) was created by mandate of the 104th Congress1; to focus the nation's research infrastructure on the department's environmental cleanup mission: The conferees agree with the concern expressed by the Senate that the Department [of Energy] is not providing sufficient attention and resources to longer term basic science research which needs to be done to ultimately reduce cleanup costs. The current technology development program continues to favor near-term applied research efforts while failing to utilize the existing basic research infrastructure within the Department and the Office of Energy Research. As a result of this, the conferees direct that at least $50,000,000 of the technology development funding provided to the environmental management program in fiscal year 1996 be managed by the Office of Energy Research and used to develop a program that takes advantage of laboratory and university expertise. This funding is to be used to stimulate the required basic research, development and demonstration efforts to seek new and innovative cleanup methods to replace current conventional approaches which are often costly and ineffective. A working partnership between the Office of Environmental Management (EM) and the Office of Energy Research (ER) was begun in 1994 to establish a basic research program focused on EM needs. The importance of basic scientific research to the cleanup mission has been established in several reports, most recently the report of the Galvin commission, entitled Alternative Futures for the Department of Energy National 1   Public Law 104-46, 1995. The text is from the conference report that accompanied H.R. 1905 (Energy and Water Development Appropriation Bill).

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BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SCIENCE PROGRAM:: INITIAL ASSESSMENT Laboratories (DOE, 1995a), and the National Research Council (NRC, 1996) report entitled Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of DOE's Environmental Management Program: Probably the most important reason behind the slow pace of assessment and cleanup is the low quality of science and technology that is being applied in the field. . . . There is a lack of realization that many—and some experts believe most—existing remediation approaches are doomed to technical failure. Others would require unacceptable expenditures and much extended time to reach their stated objectives. . . . There is a particular need for long-term, basic research in disciplines related to environmental cleanup. . . . Adopting a science-based approach that includes supporting development of technologies and expertise . . . could lead both to reduced cleanup costs and smaller environmental impacts at existing sites and to the development of a scientific foundation for advances in environmental technologies. (DOE, 1995a, pp. 30, 40-41) EM has recently begun an effort to coordinate its technology-development efforts with the Office of Energy Research, which houses much of the Department's basic research and is the principal office for interaction with non-defense Department National Laboratories. . . . This type of linkage, including the defense-related laboratories, where much of the expertise in nuclear materials resides, is precisely what is called for . . . . The Department should extend this attempt to create partnerships to include the basic-research efforts in universities and industrial concerns that are developing technology or undertaking their own research. (NRC, 1996, p. 117) The EMSP is a long-term research program designed to bridge the gap between fundamental research and needs-driven applied technology development (see Appendix A). The objective of this program is to generate new knowledge that will lead to less costly, more innovative cleanup technologies and will reduce risks to workers, the public, and the environment. An important focus of the program is the development of new knowledge to deal with problems that are intractable by using current tech-

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BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SCIENCE PROGRAM:: INITIAL ASSESSMENT nologies and to inspire “breakthroughs” in areas critical to the EM cleanup mission. The first EMSP proposal announcement targeted to university and industry researchers was published in the February 9, 1996, Federal Register (Volume 61, No. 281; see Appendix B). As a result of this announcement, and a similar solicitation directed at national laboratory researchers, the program received about 2,200 preproposals and, subsequently, 810 full proposals on topics ranging from bioremediation to sensor development. DOE is now in the process of reviewing these proposals and expects to make awards later this year.2; A description of the FY 1996 EMSP and review process is given in Appendix A. In a letter to Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Under Secretary of Energy Thomas P. Grumbly requested the assistance of the NAS in advising DOE on ways to increase the effectiveness of this research program. The Committee on Building an Environmental Management Science Program was established under the auspices of the National Research Council (NRC) to undertake this work. During this 10-month study, the committee will issue three reports that address both the science and the management needs of the program. The issues facing DOE in establishing and managing an effective EMSP are well represented by the questions that constitute the statement of task for this first committee report: How can basic research be used to help DOE-EM complete its mission successfully in the next few decades? How can a basic research program help add value to DOE-EM's cleanup efforts? What kinds of technical challenges would be likely to benefit from a program in basic research? How can the research program take advantage of the unique capabilities of U.S. universities and federal labs? How can the research program take advantage of research efforts and capabilities in other DOE programs and other federal agencies? What, if any, additional areas of research should be included in the FY 1997 program announcement as the DOE EMSP evolves? 2   Of the $50 million allocated to this program in FY 1996, $20 million has been set aside to fund proposals from universities and industry, $20 million has been set aside to fund proposals from national laboratories, and $10 million has been set aside for administration and special project costs.