DOE launches new clean-up goals

30 April 1998

The Department of Energy still wants to accelerate 353 environmental clean-up projects at 53 sites where nuclear weapons materials were developed and manufactured, but the department now acknowledges the work will take longer than it initially estimated.

The ambitious clean-up strategy was initially unveiled in a June 1997 draft report, Accel-erating Clean-up: Focus on 2006, by the DOE’s Office of Environ-mental Management. It proposed completing clean up work at most of the sites within a decade.

After receiving more than 600 comments, however, the department agreed that some of the original targets dates were unrealistic and did not jibe with the expectations of local officials.

DOE’s second draft of the report, released 2 March 1998, carries the revised title: Acceler-ating Cleanup: Paths to Closure. Nevertheless, despite removal of the date from the title, DOE still projects that 43 of the 53 sites would be cleaned up by 2006.

Beyond 2006, clean-up would continue at the remaining 10 sites. The bulk of the work after that would be at the Hanford Site in Washington state, the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

For each of the 53 sites, the DOE report contains detailed projections regarding the scope of work, schedules and costs for the clean-up of contaminated soil, groundwater and facilities; treating, storing and disposing of waste; and effectively managing nuclear materials and spent nuclear fuel. In many cases, DOE identifies future decisions that must be made and defines the degree of technical and scope-of-work uncertainties.

All told, the environmental remediation work is projected to cost approximately $147 billion between 1997 and 2070. The DOE, which is asking Congress to provide steady funding, uses the planning figure of $5.75 billion per year for purposes of showing what could be achieved.

“The department is working hard to develop a strategy that could be used to support sufficient funding in the future,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management James Owendoff.

“While we must work within the context of President Clinton’s historic balanced budget agreement with the Congress, the programme is at a critical juncture. We must continue to meet all of our obligations and accelerate clean-up where feasible, in order to reduce the ultimate cost of this work.”

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