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Summary ·eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee In the spring of 1998, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) request- ed that the National Academies convene a committee of experts to pro- vide recommendations on the formulation of a long-term basic research program to address subsurface contamination problems at DOE sites (see Sidebar 1.1 in Chapter 1~. In response to this request, a committee with expertise in basic research and research management was formed under the joint auspices of the National Research Council's Board on Radioactive Waste Management and Water Science and Technology Board. A summary of the committee's information-gathering activities and its conclusions and recommendations are presented in this report. The report provides an overview of the subsurface contamination problems across the DOE complex and shows by examples from the six largest DOE sites (Hanford Site, Idaho Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Nevada Test Site, Oak Ridge Reservation, Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, and Savannah River Site) how advances in scientific and engineering knowledge can improve the effectiveness of the cleanup effort (see Chapter 2~. The committee analyzed the cur- rent Environmental Management (EM) Science Program portfolio of sub- surface research projects (see Chapter 3) to assess the extent to which the program is focused on DOE's contamination problems. This analysis employs an organizing scheme that provides a direct linkage between basic research in the EM Science Program and applied technology development in DOE's Subsurface Contaminants Focus Area. The com- mittee also reviewed related research programs in other DOE offices and other federal agencies (see Chapter 4) to determine the extent to which they are focused on DOE's subsurface contamination problems. On the basis of these analyses, the report singles out the highly signifi- cant subsurface contamination knowledge gaps and research needs that the EM Science Program must address if the DOE cleanup program is to succeed. S u m m a r y

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Significant amounts . Subsurface Contamination at DOE Sites of subsurface contam.- nants are likely to Nuclear weapons production has resulted in the contamination of remain even after DOE's the large DOE sites. This contamination exists today in a wide range of cleanup program is forms and locations—including contaminated waste burial grounds; contaminated soil, sediment, and rock; and contaminated groundwa- ter and is frequently difficult to locate, characterize, and remediate. Significant amounts of subsurface contaminants are likely to remain even after DOE's cleanup program is completed. The committee concluded that subsurface contamination is an enor- mously difficult cleanup problem that represents a potentially large future mortgage for the nation. This mortgage could, however, be v v reduced significantly through the development and application of new and improved technologies. The development of such technologies will require advances in basic understanding of the complex natural systems at DOE sites and the nature of the contaminants there. Given the long- Given the long-term term nature of the cleanup mission and its projected cost the program nature of the cleanup is planned to last until 2070 and cost on the order of $200 billion the mission and its project- committee believes that DOE has sufficient time to do the basic ed cost...the commit- research required to support the development and deployment of new tee believes that DOE cleanup technologies. has sufficient time to do the basic research required to support EM Science Program Research Portfolio the development and deployment of new Since its establ ishment by Congress, the program has held four pro- cleanuptechnologies. posal competitions and has awarded about $225 million in funding, which puts it among the largest environmental research efforts in the federal government. The program has supported research projects rele- vant to many aspects of DOE's cleanup Program. including subsurface , , , , O O contamination, high-level waste, and deactivation and decommission- ing. The committee reviewed the research portfolio for fiscal years 1996 and 1997 and identified 91 projects that were relevant to DOE's subsur- face contamination problems. The committee's review revealed some significant areas of strength. Fifty projects address organic contamina- tion problems and 38 projects use a combination of field-, laboratory-, and modeling-based approaches. There appears to be a critical mass of projects covering remediation of subsurface contamination, especially treatment and destruction of organic contaminants through physical, chemical, and biological processes. S U B S U R F A C E S C ~ E N C E

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The most notable gaps in the current portfolio concern containment and validation. These are two of the most significant problem areas in the DOE complex, because it is inevitable that DOE will have to man- age much of its subsurface contamination in place. There also appear to be relatively few projects that address radionuclide and metal contami- nation problems. Research Programs in Other Government Agencies The committee gathered information on research programs in other DOE offices and other federal agencies to assess how they might con- tribute to solving DOE's subsurface contamination problems. The com- mittee made the following observations in Chapter 4: · The federal government is a major sponsor of basic research that is related either directly or indirectly to environmental problems. The committee identified almost 50 such programs in its survey (see Table 4.1~. A large number and variety of programs across the federal gov- ernment support research of direct relevance to the EM Science Program and DOE cleanup. The committee identified 18 such programs, many of which are focused on hazardous chemicals, especially volatile organic contaminants and non-aqueous phase liquids, and to a lesser extent on heavy metals. Many of these pro- grams are also focused on remediation, especially bioremediation. · With some notable exceptions, there appears to be significant overlap in scope among these 18 programs. It does not appear to the committee that these programs are being coordinated effec- tivelv among the agencies. . The committee concluded that there would be value-added to the EM Science Program and, ultimately, to DOE's cleanup efforts if there were better interagency coordination among these 18 research pro- grams. The committee sees an opportunity for EM Science Program managers to promote and foster such coordination. The term "validation" is used to describe processes for testing a conceptual or predictive model to determine whether it adequately represents the system behavior of interest, and it is also applied to monitoring and testing to confirm the effective- ness of remediation actions. See Chapter 5. S u m m a r y

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Formulation of a Long-Term Research Program The committee's recommendations for a long-term basic research program on subsurface contamination address the following issues: . . program vision, research emphases, and implementation. The principal conclusions and recommendations are summarized below. Additional details can be found in Chapters 5 and 6. Program Vision The EM Science Program has been in existence for almost four years, but there does not annear to be a clear and aureed-unon vision for th is program with ~ n Cot . . . . . ~ . ' Am-. If the program is to remain viable over the long term and to nave a significant impact on the DOE cleanup mis- sion, program managers must articulate a vision for the program that is supported both programmatically and financially by DOE upper man- agement. The committee recommends that this vision include the fol- lowing four elements: 1. The program objective should be to generate new knowledge to support DOE's mission to clean up its contaminated sites. 2. The program should be well connected to DOE's difficult cleanup problems. 3. A major focus of the program should continue to be on research to resolve DOE's subsurface contamination problems. 4. The program should have a long-term, multidisciplinary basic research2 focus. The committee defines "long term" as long enough to set ambitious goals to fill the knowledge gaps identified in Chapter 5 and to have rea- sonable expectations that those goals can be attained. In the commit- tee's judgment, a time horizon on the order of a decade will be required to make cumulative progress on the knowledge gaps identified in Chapter 5, although shorter-term results of use to DOE's cleanup pro- gram will almost certainly be obtained over the lifetimes of individual research projects. 2Basic research creates new generic knowledge and is focused on long-term, rather than short-term, problems. See Sidebar 1.1 in Chapter 1. S U B S U R F A C E S C ~ E N C E

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Research Emphases There are significant impediments to the successful completion of DOE's cleanup mission that can be removed through a focused, sus- tained, and adequately funded basic research program. Based on the analysis of DOE's subsurface contamination problems in Chapters 2 and 5, the committee recommends that the subsurface component of the EM Science Program have the following four research emphases: Location and characterization of subsurface contaminants and characterization of the subsurface. Basic research that supports advances in capabilities to locate and characterize subsurface contamination and elucidate relevant subsurface conditions wi 11 help DOE to better assess the potential hazards of its contamina- tion problems and to design and implement appropriate correc- tive action strategies. Moreover, research on subsurface hetero- geneity in geology, geochemistry, hydrology, and microbiology will provide a framework for assessing the fate and transport of contaminants. The committee believes that basic research is needed to support the development of the following capabilities: it mp roved capabilities for characterizing the physical, chemi- cal, and biological properties of the subsurface; improved capabilities for characterizing physical, chemical, and biological heterogeneity, especially at the scales that control contaminant fate and transport behavior; improved capabilities for measuring contaminant migration and system properties that control contaminant movement; methods to integrate data collected at different spatial and temporal scales to better estimate contaminant and subsur- face properties and processes; and methods to integrate such data into conceptual models. 2. Conceptualmodeling.3 Basic research on thefundamental approaches and assumptions underlying conceptual model development could produce a "tool box" of methodologies that can be applied to contaminated sites both inside and outside the DOE complex. This research should focus on the following topics: 3A conceptual model is a description of the subsurface as estimated from knowledge of the known site geology and hydrology and the physical, chemical, and biological processes that govern contaminant behavior. See Chapter 5. S u m m a r y The committee recom- mends that the subsur- face component of the EM Science Program have the following four research emphases: 1. Location and character- ization of subsurface contaminants and characterization of the subsurface.... 2.Conceptual model- ing.... 3. Containment and stabilization.... 4. Monitoring and vali- dation.

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new observational and experimental approaches and tools for developing conceptual models that aoolv to complex sub- su rface envi ran meets; . ,, , new approaches for incorporating geological, hydrological, chemical, and biological subsurface heterogeneity into con- ceptual model formulations at scales that dominate flow and transport behavior; development of coupled-process models through experimen- tal studies at variable scales and complexities that account for the interacting physical, chemical, and biological process- es that govern contaminant fate and transport behavior; methods to integrate process knowledge from small-scale tests and observations into model formulations; methods to measure and predict the scale dependency of parameter values; and approaches for establishing bounds on the accuracy of para- meters and conceptual model estimates from field and exper- imental data. 3. Containment and stabilization. Increasing reliance is being placed on containment and stabilization because DOE recog- nizes that cleanup at some sites is technically infeasible, or that contamination at some sites does not pose a high risk to humans or the environment. Basic research that supports the develop- ment of new waste containment and stabilization technologies cou Id lower the cost, accelerate regu latory approvals, and increase public confidence in solving subsurface contamination problems. Research focused on the following topics is especially needed: . . mechanisms and kinetics of chemically and biologically mediated reactions that can be applied to new stabilization and containment approaches or that can be used to under- stand the long-term reversibility of chemical and biological stabi I ization methods; physical, chemical, and biological reactions that occur among contaminants, soils, and barrier components so that more compatible and durable materials for containment and stabilization systems can be developed; fluid transport behavior in conventional barrier systems; and development of methods for assessing the long-term durabili- ty of containment and stabilization systems. S U B S U R F A C E S C ~ E N C E

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4. Monitoring and validation. Basic research leading to improve- ments in capabilities to monitor and validate contaminant loca- tions and perform remedial actions will greatly enhance the technical success of DOE's efforts to remediate or contain and stabi I ize contami nation. Many of the research opportun ities for monitoring and validation have been covered in the research emphases discussed above. In addition, the committee believes that basic research is needed on the following topics: development of methods for designing monitoring systems to detect both current conditions and changes in system behav- iors; development of validation processes. determining the key measurements that are required to vali- date models and system behaviors, the spatial and temporal resolutions at which such measurements must be obtained, and the extent to which surrogate data can be used in valida- tion efforts; and · research to support the development of methods to monitor fluid and gaseous fluxes through the unsaturated zone, and for differentiating diurnal and seasonal changes from longer- term secular changes. Within these four emphases, the committee further recom- mends that the EM Science Program encourage research on met- als and radionuclides, which is generally not receiving much attention in other federal research programs. There should, how- ever, be sufficient flexibility in the program so that support can be provided for high-risk but potentially high-payoff research ideas that intersect with these recommended research emphases. The committee's recommendation of these four research emphases does not mean that the subsurface research in the cur- rent program portfolio is inappropriate or misdirected. Rather, the recommended emphases represent areas where more research clearly is needed. Implementation The EM Science Program is a basic research program focused on very real DOE problems. The program's success will be measured both by its impact on advancing the science needed for site remediation and its impact on DOE site cleanup. To be successful, the program must not only be focused on the right problems but it also must encourage researchers to do the right work; and it must be structured so that S u m m a r y

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research results can be handed off to technology developers and prob- lem holders at DOE sites. The committee concluded that the following actions would help ensure the long-term success of the program in meeting the first two of these objectives:4 1. Program Integration. Program managers must encourage and support program-wide integration activities to optimize impacts of advances in subsurface science on DOE site cleanup. To this end, the program's implementation strategy should contain the following integrative elements: Continue to reach beyond the usual group of DOE researchers to pull in new and novel ideas to address DOE-specific problems. Continue to encourage multidisciplinary research and university-national laboratory-industry col laborations that wi 11 promote new insights into the very complex subsurface problems at DOE sites. Integrate existing data and ideas both from DOE sites and basic research programs outside DOE to promote advance- ments in subsurface science and improvements in capabilities for addressing DOE's subsurface contamination problems. 2. Field Sites. The committee recommends that program managers examine the feasibility of developing field research sites as one program component. Such sites could attract new researchers to the program, encourage both formal and informal multidiscipli- nary collaborations among the researchers, and facilitate the transfer of research results into application. These field sites could include contaminated or uncontaminated areas at major DOE sites; analog uncontaminated sites that have subsurface characteristics similar to those at contaminated DOE sites; and even vi rtual sites comprised of data on h istorical and contempo- rary contamination problems. These sites could be established by the program itself or in cooperation with other research pro- grams. The establishment of field research sites is potentially expen- sive, especially if the sites are located in contaminated areas. Consequently, the establishment of such sites will require addi- tional budget support beyond that required to fund individual 4The third objective on moving science into application, although extremely important, is beyond the statement of task for the present study. S U B S U R F A C E S C ~ E N C E

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research projects, and well beyond the amount of funding avail- able to the program for new starts in fiscal year 1999. Moreover, the use of such sites will have to be evaluated periodically to determine whether they are adding value to the research effort, particularly given the cost of such sites relative to the total size of the program budget. 3. Program Funding. The issue of program funding has received a ~ ~ . ~ great deal of attention from a previous NRC committee (NRC, 1 997b), which concluded that the "program must be large enough to support a significant number of 'new starts' (i.e., new projects or competitive renewals) each year if it is to be success- fu I i n attract) ng i n novative proposals from outstand i ng researchers ...." New starts will help establish a cadre of knowl- edgeable and committed investigators undergraduates, gradu- ates, postdocs, and professionals who can be called on by DOE in the years ahead for help with its most difficult contami- nation problems. New starts also are needed to maintain conti- nuity in the research effort since the advancement of scientific knowledge is a cumulative effort involving many scientists over long periods of time. This effort is set back significantly each time program funding is interrupted. It is the committee's strong impression that the current level of program funding is not sufficient to support the research emphases outlined in this report, especially since subsurface research is just one of many research areas supported by the program. The committee has no basis on which to recommend a specific funding level, and such a recommendation would be well beyond the committee's statement of task. The committee believes that it is the responsibility of program managers to estimate the amount of funding required to provide adequate support for a research program focused on the knowledge gaps presented in Chapter 5. One approach for estimating the annual budget needed to support the recommended research is to esti- mate the number of projects needed to attain a critical mass of research on each technical challenge area discussed earlier, and then to multiply that number by the average annual grant size. Such estimates could be used to justify future and possibly larger budget requests to upper DOE management and Congress, espe- cially if the estimates are reviewed and validated by DOE's internal and external advisory committees. Future budget requests are likely to be seen in an increasingly more favorable light as the program becomes more firmly connected to EM's cleanup problems. S u m m a r y It is the committee's strong impression that the current level of program funding is not sufficient to sup- port the research emphases outlined in this report....

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Concluding Remarks There must be strong The basic research supported by the EM Science Program and other scientific, technical, and relevant federal research programs wi I I have I ittle if any impact on DOE management ieacler- cleanup unless research results are transferred into technology develop- ship at all levels ...if sig- ment programs in EM and to problem holders at DOE sites. Program nificant progress on managers have a responsibility to ensure that the handoff from research closing the knowiecige to development is timely and effective, both for research results devel- gaps is to be made in aped in its programs and from other relevant federal programs. the next decade and There must be strong scientific, technical, and management leader- the research results are ship at all levels, from the EM Science Program up to and including the to be appliecl effective- assistant secretary for environmental management if significant progress iy to the DOE cleanup on closing knowledge gaps is to be made in the next decade and the program. research results are to be applied effectively to the DOE cleanup pro- gram. The development of this leadership is a continuing challenge- and a significant opportunity for the EM Science Program and DOE. S U B S U R F A C E S C ~ E N C E 10