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.