In addressing these questions in this first report, the committee has restricted its findings and conclusions to near-term needs of the EMSP, in order to provide timely advice to DOE for use in completing the review of this year's proposals and in developing the FY 1997 program, consistent with the committee's compressed schedule for information gathering and deliberation. Longer-term science and management needs of the program will be addressed in the second and third reports, which will be issued later this year. The project schedule is described later in this report.

Information used to develop this report was obtained by the committee during two meetings at which it received briefings from DOE, from university, national laboratory, and industry researchers (Appendix C) and from the committee's review of previous NRC and DOE reports relevant to this program.

THE DOE CLEANUP MISSION

Fifty years of nuclear technology and weapons development have produced both positive and negative legacies for the nation. Nuclear technology contributed to national security during the Cold War, but the treatment and disposition of radioactive and chemical wastes were a secondary concern to the production of nuclear weapons. These weapons production efforts have left the nation with contaminated soil, surface water, and ground water, as well as large volumes of radioactive and chemical wastes, that are a hazard to human health and the environment.

The DOE is the agency responsible for managing the nuclear weapons complex, including more than 120 million square feet of buildings and facilities and 2.3 million acres of land that were used for the research, production, and testing of nuclear weapons (DOE, 1995c). The department's cleanup challenge is huge in scope and includes3; 3,700 contaminated sites in 34 states and territories; more than 100 million gallons of radioactive and mixed wastes stored in 322 tanks; 3 million cubic meters of radioactive or hazardous buried wastes; 250 million cubic meters of contaminated soils from landfills and plumes; more than 600 billion gallons of contaminated ground water; and about 1,200 facilities that require decontamination and decommissioning. As an example, there are approximately 215 million curies of radioactivity in the 177 storage tanks at the Hanford site (Gephart and Lundgren, 1995). Innovative characterization and remediation technologies will be required to characterize and stabilize this waste

3  

From written material received from DOE-EM at the first committee meeting.



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BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SCIENCE PROGRAM:: INITIAL ASSESSMENT In addressing these questions in this first report, the committee has restricted its findings and conclusions to near-term needs of the EMSP, in order to provide timely advice to DOE for use in completing the review of this year's proposals and in developing the FY 1997 program, consistent with the committee's compressed schedule for information gathering and deliberation. Longer-term science and management needs of the program will be addressed in the second and third reports, which will be issued later this year. The project schedule is described later in this report. Information used to develop this report was obtained by the committee during two meetings at which it received briefings from DOE, from university, national laboratory, and industry researchers (Appendix C) and from the committee's review of previous NRC and DOE reports relevant to this program. THE DOE CLEANUP MISSION Fifty years of nuclear technology and weapons development have produced both positive and negative legacies for the nation. Nuclear technology contributed to national security during the Cold War, but the treatment and disposition of radioactive and chemical wastes were a secondary concern to the production of nuclear weapons. These weapons production efforts have left the nation with contaminated soil, surface water, and ground water, as well as large volumes of radioactive and chemical wastes, that are a hazard to human health and the environment. The DOE is the agency responsible for managing the nuclear weapons complex, including more than 120 million square feet of buildings and facilities and 2.3 million acres of land that were used for the research, production, and testing of nuclear weapons (DOE, 1995c). The department's cleanup challenge is huge in scope and includes3; 3,700 contaminated sites in 34 states and territories; more than 100 million gallons of radioactive and mixed wastes stored in 322 tanks; 3 million cubic meters of radioactive or hazardous buried wastes; 250 million cubic meters of contaminated soils from landfills and plumes; more than 600 billion gallons of contaminated ground water; and about 1,200 facilities that require decontamination and decommissioning. As an example, there are approximately 215 million curies of radioactivity in the 177 storage tanks at the Hanford site (Gephart and Lundgren, 1995). Innovative characterization and remediation technologies will be required to characterize and stabilize this waste 3   From written material received from DOE-EM at the first committee meeting.

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BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SCIENCE PROGRAM:: INITIAL ASSESSMENT over the long term to keep it from further contaminating the local environment. Cleanup of the weapons complex is necessary to protect human and environmental health, but such cleanup will be difficult and expensive. Based on the use of existing technologies and cleanup approaches, DOE's current estimate of cleanup costs is $200 billion to $350 billion, with a midrange estimate of $230 billion, over 75 years (DOE, 1995b). 4 Of this total, DOE estimates that $112 billion will be spent for waste management, $65 billion for environmental restoration, $22 billion for nuclear material and facility stabilization, $12 billion for technology development, and the remainder for activities such as program management and planning and annual monitoring (DOE, 1995b). This estimate does not include costs for problems that DOE believes cannot be solved with current technologies, such as cleanup of the large volumes of contaminated soil and ground water that exist at many sites. According to DOE, the most urgent and high-risk tasks are the stabilization and maintenance of a large number of nuclear facilities and materials (DOE, 1995b), including the prevention of material leaks, explosions, theft, terrorist attack, and avoidable radiation exposures. The inherent difficulties associated with the handling and storage of radioactive materials, in addition to the vast quantity and varied forms of this waste, suggest that comprehensive cleanup will be a formidable goal. The DOE established the Office of Environmental Management (EM) in 1989 to manage this cleanup effort. Within this office, programs were established in environmental restoration, waste management, nuclear material and facility stabilization, and technology development and were charged with the following six goals (DOE, 1995b): (1) eliminate and manage urgent risks; (2) emphasize health and safety for workers and the public; (3) establish a system that is managerially and financially in control; (4) demonstrate tangible results; (5) focus technology development on identifying and overcoming obstacles to progress; and (6) establish a stronger partnership between DOE and its stakeholders (i.e., those groups that have a “stake” in the process and outcome of cleanup, including workers, regulators, and communities around the sites). Many of EM's cleanup problems cannot be solved or even managed efficiently and safely with current technologies, in part owing to their 4   As noted in The 1995 Baseline Environmental Management Report (DOE, 1995b), these estimates involve many uncertainties, and future estimates may change as more information becomes available. There are no independent estimates of the magnitude of cleanup costs.