Executive Summary

The Committee to Review Risk Management in the DOE's Environmental Remediation Program has conducted a workshop on the feasibility and desirability of risk assessment as an aid to decision-making. Stakeholders represented were local citizens; Native American organizations; state, local, and federal governments; and the Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractors. Thus, parties responsible for the remediation and safety of the facilities, parties affected by the facilities, and the parties regulating the facilities were able to present their perspectives. Although those perspectives differ (even within the same representative group), all parties seemed to agree on some points:

  • The lack of trust in DOE and its site operators is a major impediment to reaching consensus not only on the type and degree of remediation needed, but also on the process to reach these decisions.

  • The multiple concerned parties, or stakeholders, need to be involved throughout the whole process beginning with planning, not just in the review of the results.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 1
Building Consensus Through Risk Assessment and Management of the Department of Energy's Environmental Remediation Program Executive Summary The Committee to Review Risk Management in the DOE's Environmental Remediation Program has conducted a workshop on the feasibility and desirability of risk assessment as an aid to decision-making. Stakeholders represented were local citizens; Native American organizations; state, local, and federal governments; and the Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractors. Thus, parties responsible for the remediation and safety of the facilities, parties affected by the facilities, and the parties regulating the facilities were able to present their perspectives. Although those perspectives differ (even within the same representative group), all parties seemed to agree on some points: The lack of trust in DOE and its site operators is a major impediment to reaching consensus not only on the type and degree of remediation needed, but also on the process to reach these decisions. The multiple concerned parties, or stakeholders, need to be involved throughout the whole process beginning with planning, not just in the review of the results.

OCR for page 1
Building Consensus Through Risk Assessment and Management of the Department of Energy's Environmental Remediation Program Because there are differences in values and philosophical views, an open, clear, equitable, and inclusive process is essential. More information about the sites' potential exposures and their hazards is, of course, always preferable to less information, but the absence of complete information should not be an excuse for lack of progress in site remediation. In spite of some recent successes in collaborative efforts in remediation activities by DOE, the states, and other stakeholders, the workshop presentations clearly showed the need for fundamental rethinking and restructuring of how sites are assessed and priorities are set and of how the stakeholders interact with each other throughout the process. The recommendations contained in this report are intended to assist the DOE in this rethinking and restructuring. Comments of the workshop were often directed at different factors influencing remedial action decisions. The committee has identified these as four different processes. They are risk assessment, risk management, the overall decision-making process (which may or may not utilize issues of risk, but may include factors such as the economic benefit of remediation efforts within the local community), and public participation. The committee notes that these four processes axe all utilized in the remediatiation of DOE sites. These processes occur simultaneously and commonly interact with one another (see Figure 3-1). Each requires information from the others, and each needs to provide information to the others. Indeed, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish the boundaries between them. Therefore, even though the committee focused its deliberations on risk assessment, we include the other processes in our recommendations because they are essential to the implementation of an effective environmental remediation program based on risk assessment. Risk assessment, which is the technical assessment of the nature and magnitude of risk, is always distinguished from risk management, which uses information from risk assessment together

OCR for page 1
Building Consensus Through Risk Assessment and Management of the Department of Energy's Environmental Remediation Program with information about technical resources, social, economic, and political values, and control or response options to determine means of reducing or eliminating a risk. The differences between risk assessment and risk management are widely debated and controversial. The controversy centers on the degree to which risk assessment can be kept free from biases or values that typically are part of management decisions. The committee recognizes that some may view the effort to include public participation in the process of risk assessment as actually forcing on risk assessment the role of risk management. The committee believes that the public can contribute to the process of risk assessment as it has been traditionally defined. Based on its own deliberations after the workshop, the committee concludes that risk assessment concerning possible future outcomes at DOE weapons-complex sites has the following characteristics and benefits: It is feasible even in situations where current information is limited, as long as its purposes and limitations are defined. Risk assessment should be an iterative process. The earliest analysis might determine where more information is needed to support credible risk assessments in future iterations and provide limited guidance in reducing risks to health and the environment through risk management and in the continuing decision-making process associated with remediation. It can be effective in comparing different potential outcomes of possible future actions and their cost-effectiveness. It must involve the public (in its many guises) in the whole process, including the planning of the process and the definition of the scope of risk assessment. In so doing, risk assessment becomes an important element of consensus-building for remediation. It is a highly desirable component of the remediation decision-making process. It is especially useful in providing input for managing and reducing the risks encountered by workers and the local population during the remediation effort. Of course,

OCR for page 1
Building Consensus Through Risk Assessment and Management of the Department of Energy's Environmental Remediation Program remediation decision-making relies on other inputs besides risk assessment, including political, social, religious, financial, and technological factors. If properly used, it is a manifestation of the scientific method in that it specifies how information is gathered systematically; how its uncertainty is determined; how potential future outcomes and their impacts are explored in an objective and reproducible manner; and how the likelihood of these outcomes is displayed clearly and comprehensively. Risk assessment has its limitations, as well. These should be understood by DOE and stakeholders. Risk assessment is one of a number of elements in the decision-making process and should not be treated as the only one. It can be conducted in many organizational settings. Although a risk assessment group outside DOE and its site operators and prime contractors might have more credibility than DOE, the gain in credibility might come at a cost in time needed to organize the effort and to obtain background information. Ways should be sought to combine the advantages of easily accessible information and the credibility of an outside group. In summary, the committee believes that Assistant Secretary Grumbly 's proposal—for “the necessary, credible, scientifically based risk assessment program to define, on a major site-by-site basis in a meaningful way, the major long-term product and health and environmental risks at our site and we need to do this in concert with our stakeholders, in concert with the public health community, and in concert with all of you”—is feasible and desirable. This comprehensive risk assessment process is absolutely essential for dealing effectively with the risks at DOE facilities. With rigorous, consistent, and continuous inclusion of stakeholder groups in the effort, risk assessment can become an important element of consensus-building for key decisions in the remediation of DOE sites. Through this consensus-building process and perhaps through a new organizational setting for risk assessment, the credibility of DOE can be improved.