Located within the Department of Energy (DOE), the Office of Environmental Management (EM) is responsible for overseeing the cleanup of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex. Representing a leftover from the Cold War, vast amounts of radioactive and toxic waste and contamination are spread throughout nuclear weapons facilities around the country, requiring long-term efforts involving environmental restoration, waste management, technology development and land reuse by EM.
From 1945 until 1989 the US produced tens of thousands of nuclear warheads in preparation for war against the Soviet Union. Begun under the World War II-era Manhattan Project, the nation’s first atomic weapons were built for use against Japan. Once the war ended, US policymakers expanded the nation’s nuclear production facilities as an arms race with the Soviets grew over the course of four decades. In 1939 Danish Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr had argued that building an atomic bomb "can never be done unless you turn the United States into one huge factory." Years later, he told his colleague Edward Teller, "I told you it couldn't be done without turning the whole country into a factory. You have done just that."
Located within DOE, the Office of Environmental Management (EM) is responsible for completing the cleanup of the environmental legacy brought about from five decades of nuclear weapons development and government-sponsored nuclear energy research. EM
Those with vested interests in the work of the Office of Environmental Management range from defense contractors and multi-national engineering and construction firms to grass-roots citizens groups, universities, state and local governments. Approximately 34,000 contractor employees work at sites that EM oversees. Among these private contractors is Fluor, an international engineering and construction firm, which was heavily involved in the cleanup operations at Fernald, a former uranium processing facility in Ohio, and at the Hanford plutonium facility, which has been described as the most dangerous environmental project in the country because of the scope of the cleanup. Also performing work at Hanford are construction giants Bechtel (which has a stake in Savannah River cleanup and runs the Idaho and Pittsburgh Naval Reactors laboratories) and CH2M Hill, which is handling cleanup work at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and is involved with work at Savannah River.
- Helps ensure that DOE facilities and sites are operated and cleaned up in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations, as well as those tribal rights established by treaty, and in a manner that protects human health, safety and the environment.
Sense of Direction
(Sherrod Brown Website)
When Barack Obama selected Inés R. Triay for the position of Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (OEM), he decided that her qualifications as a 24-year veteran of the Energy Department, including her oversight of a key nuclear waste disposal plant, trumped any concerns about her political contributions to former President George W. Bush. She took over the leadership of the Office of Environmental Management (OEM) in May 2009 after leading it in an acting capacity since November 2008. Triay is in charge of the US government’s primary cleanup operation of nuclear waste, which involves more than 100 sites located across the United States.