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The United States Department of Energy's Environmental Management Program

  • Kurt D. Gerdes (a1) and Steven L. Ross (a1)


The year 2009 marks 20 years since the Environmental Management program was first established in the Department of Energy. At that time, nearly 50 years of nuclear activity had left a legacy that included nuclear waste and environmental contamination at more than 100 sites across the United States. The extent of the risk to our citizens and communities was unknown, and certainly many of the processes and technologies to reduce that risk had not yet been invented. Since then, the Department of Energy has closed 86 of 108 sites originally assigned to the program nationwide. The Department of Energy has packaged and safely stored the nation’s entire excess plutonium inventory. The Department has pioneered new technologies that have allowed progress in retrieving millions of liters of tank waste and safely disposing of tens of thousands of cubic meters of transuranic waste. In Fiscal years 2006 and 2007 alone, the Department of Energy demolished approximately 500 buildings (nuclear, radioactive, and industrial) as part of our decontamination and decommissioning projects. Finally, there have been great strides in restoring groundwater contaminated with radionuclides using innovative treatment systems. In August 2005, a rigorous project management system was instituted. This Department of Energy program was built on the principle of prioritizing risk reduction supported by our four guiding tenets of safety, performance, clean-up, and closure. The mission activities at our clean-up sites are targeted at our highest risk activities. In planning its environmental clean-up efforts and developing the budget for those activities, the Department seeks to focus on work that will produce the greatest environmental benefit and the largest amount of risk reduction.



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1 Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. 42 U.S.C.10101 et seq.
2 Tank Waste Retrieval, Processing, and On-Site Disposal at Three Department of Energy Sites, Final Report. National Research Council, The National Academies Press, Inc. 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20001, 2006.
3 Comprehensive Review of the Hanford Waste Treatment Plant Flowsheet and Throughput, Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant Project, March 2006; 20Draft_March06.pdf.
4 Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (AEA). 42 U.S.C. 2011 et seq.
5 Report to Congress: Status of Environmental Management Initiatives to Accelerate the Reduction of Environmental Risks and Challenges Posed by the Legacy of the Cold War,
6 DOE M 435.1-1, Radioactive Waste Management Manual, U. S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C. August 1999.
7 The Disposal of Radioactive Waste on Land. National Academy of Sciences. Publication 519, NAS, Washington, D.C. September 1957.
8 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act (LWA) of 1992, P. L. No. 102–579, 106 Stat.
9Engineering and Technology Roadmap: Reducing technical Risk and Uncertainty in the EM Program.” U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management, Washington, D.C. 20585. March 2008.
10 Melton Valley Remediation Completed, Department of Energy Oak Ridge Environmental Management Program, April 2008,
11 10 CFR Part 961, Standard Contract for Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and/or High- Level Radioactive Waste.
12 10 CFR Part 61. Licensing Requirements for Land Disposal of Radioactive Waste.
13 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980.
14 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976.
15 The Role of Liquid Waste Pretreatment Technologies in Solving the Department of Energy Cleanup Mission, Wilmarth, W. R., Johnson, M. E., Lumetta, G., Poirier, M. R., Thompson, M. C., Machara, N.. SRNL-STI-2008-00426, Savannah River National Laboratory, Aiken, South Carolina, October 2008.
16 Closure Legacy, from Weapons to Wildlife, U.S. Department of Energy, Rocky Flats Project Office, dated Aug. 2006,
17 Integrated Multi-Year Program Plan (FY 2008 – FY 2010), Office of Engineering and Technology, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C. 20585, March 2008;
18 Ronald Reagan National Defense Authorization Act of 2005. P.L. 108-375, Washington, DC, 2006.
19 Radioactive Tank Waste from the Past Production of Nuclear Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress, D.M. Andrews and A. Andews, Congressional Research Service. Washington, D.C.
20 Waste Processing Multi-Year Program Plan, Fiscal Year 2008 – 2012, Office of Waste Processing (EM-21), U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C. 20585, May 2008;
21 Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) / Technology Maturation Plan (TMP) Process Guide, Office of Environmental Management, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D,C, 20585, March 2008.

The United States Department of Energy's Environmental Management Program

  • Kurt D. Gerdes (a1) and Steven L. Ross (a1)


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