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Overview:

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 the EM. The agency has succeeded in completing cleanup at 90 nuclear sites, and continues its efforts at 17 additional sites located in 11 states.

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History:

From 1945 until 1989 the U.S. 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, U.S. 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.”

 

Over the second half of the 20th century, the U.S. spent approximately $300 billion on nuclear weapons research, production, and testing (in 1995 dollars). At its peak, the nuclear weapons complex consisted of 16 major facilities, including vast reservations of land in the states of Nevada, Tennessee, Idaho, Washington, and South Carolina. It ranged from tracts of isolated desert in Nevada, where weapons were tested, to warehouses in downtown New York that once stored uranium. Its national laboratories in New Mexico and California designed weapons with production of various components in Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Washington.

 

The nuclear weapons complex generated vast amounts of waste, pollution, and contamination. The U.S. reportedly has 70,000 tons of radioactive spent fuel from commercial and defense nuclear reactors, 88 million gallons of high-level waste left over from plutonium processing, in excess of 10,000 containers of excess plutonium and uranium, more than 5,000 contaminated facilities, millions of cubic meters of contaminated soil, billions of gallons of contaminated groundwater, millions of cubic feet of contaminated low-level waste (such as tools, metal scraps, clothing, oils, solvents, and other materials), plus some 265 million tons of tailings from milling uranium ore. Some of the most serious contamination has existed at three locations where uranium was enriched (see the Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund).

 

The price tag for cleanup is estimated in the range of $200 to $350 billion. This includes unique radiation hazards, unprecedented volumes of contaminated water and soil, and a vast number of contaminated structures ranging from reactors to chemical plants for extracting nuclear materials to evaporation ponds. Early in the nuclear age, scientists involved with the weapons complex raised serious questions about its waste management practices. Shortly after the establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission, which oversaw the nuclear weapons complex until DOE was created in the 1970s, a 12-man Safety and Industrial Health Advisory Board reported that the “disposal of contaminated waste in present quantities and by present methods...if continued for decades, presents the gravest of problems.”

 

In 1989 workers at the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado, one of the nation’s most important and polluted nuclear weapons facilities, loaded the last plutonium “trigger” for a nuclear warhead into a tractor trailer bound southeast to the warhead-assembly Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas. With the Cold War coming to an end, the federal government began addressing its contaminated legacy. That same year the Office of Environmental Management (EM) was established to begin this gargantuan task.

 

Since its creation, the EM has completed nuclear waste cleanup at 90 nuclear sites, and continues its efforts at 17 additional sites located in 11 states, covering a total area of 243 square miles.

 

In October 2012, the General Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the DOE estimates it will cost more than $300 billion, over a period of several decades, for the EM to complete the cleanup of the sites under its jurisdiction. In addition to government appropriations, some of EM’s funding comes from the 2009 Recovery Act. Going forward, it provides about $6 billion for the agency to complete its work, an investment that is said to result in a long-term savings of $7 billion.

Waste Locations by State

NEI - Resources and Stats

Half Life: The Lethal Legacy of America’s Nuclear Waste (by Michael E. Long, National Geographic)

Environmental Management History

National Museum of Nuclear Science and History – Manhattan Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What it Does:

Located within the 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. The EM identifies, plans, and carries out cleanup activities in accordance with the principles of DOE Order 413.3A (Program and Project Management for the Acquisition of Capital Assets) and DOE Manual 413.3-1 (Project Management for the Acquisition of Capital Assets). These documents define the principles of project management that are applied to all EM cleanup activities. The EM is responsible for providing oversight to ensure that all parties involved in projects adhere to the principles of the Project Management Order and Manual.

 

The EM provides a list (pdf) of the 90 closure sites where cleanup and restoration have been completed. It also provides a map from which can be accessed each of the 17 active projects it currently oversees. These 17 span 11 states and cover a total area of 243 square miles. Among these sites are:

  • Hanford Site – Over the course of more than 40 years, the Hanford, Washington, site produced more than 20 million pieces of uranium metal fuel that result in the processing of 110,000 tons of fuel from nine nuclear reactors. It resulted in 53 million gallons of radioactive waste disposed in 177 underground tanks. Cleanup commenced in 1989 and is currently performed by 11,000 workers. More than a billion dollars in funding was requested for the Hanford Site in 2013.
  • Idaho National Laboratory – Over the years, 52 nuclear reactors have been built on this site. Three are in operation today. One disposal facility contains a 510,000 cubic yard landfill, and a waste treatment center handles 900,000 gallons of waste stored in underground tanks. Several of its programs require the removal of waste by the end of 2018. Funding request for this site in 2013 was $405.3 million.
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory – Environmental restoration and cleanup work is organized into several projects that have responsibility for different aspects of environmental restoration. Their goal is to ensure that residual contaminants from past operations don’t threaten human or environmental health and safety. Investigations and cleanup of areas contaminated from those operations are ongoing. Funding request for 2013 was $239.1 million.
  • Moab Site – Scheduled for 2013 is the disposal of nearly a million tons of radioactive mill tailings. Amount requested for cleanup in 2013 was $30.9 million.
  • Oak Ridge Reservation – Facility deactivation and decommissioning is underway in 2013 in support of the planned 2015 completion of the K-25 facility. Funding request for 2013 was $421.2 million.

Additional active cleanup sites and their FY 2013 requested funding amounts include:

 

2013 Environmental Management Statement to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development (pdf)

 

Examples of the kind of work EM performs are:

  • Constructing and operating facilities to treat radioactive liquid tank waste into a safe, stable form to enable ultimate disposition.
  • Securing and storing nuclear material in a stable, safe configuration in secure locations to protect national security.
  • Transporting and disposing of transuranic and low-level wastes in a safe and cost effective manner to reduce risk.
  • Decontaminating and decommissioning facilities that provide no further value to reduce long-term liabilities and maximize resources for cleanup.
  • Remediating soil and ground water contaminated with the radioactive and hazardous constituents.

 

From the Web Site of the Office of Environmental Management

Cleanup Sites

Contact Information

Five-Year Plan

History

Jobs and Internships

Leadership

Mission

News

Newsletter Archive

Organization

Press Releases

Project of the Month

Services

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where Does the Money Go:

The Office of Environmental Management (EM) has spent more than $1.1 billion on 2,833 contractor transactions during the past decade, according to USAspending.gov. The top five types of products or services were management support ($270,248,920), operation of government waste treatment storage facilities ($200,000,000), program management and support ($69,806,211), maintenance and repair of office buildings ($49,615,377), and transportation/travel/relocation/lodging/recruitment via passenger air charter ($47,214,595).

 

The top five recipients of EM’s contractor spending between 2003 and 2013 were:

1. The Plateau Group LLC                                         $243,596,093 

2. URS Corporation                                                    $200,000,000 

3. Battelle Memorial Institute Inc.                                $56,422,043 

4. SEACOR Holdings Inc.                                           $47,178,519 

5. CAPE Environmental Management Inc.                  $47,105,176

 

Those with vested interests in the work of the EM range from defense contractors and multinational engineering and construction firms to grass-roots citizens groups, universities, and state and local governments. Approximately 34,000 contractor employees work at sites that the EM oversees. Among these private contractors is Fluor, an international engineering and construction firm, which had a $9.5 billion contract to handle cleanup operations at Fernald, a former uranium processing facility in Ohio, and—from 1996 to 2008—a contract for work 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 the Savannah River cleanup) and CH2M Hill, which is handling cleanup work (pdf) through 2015 at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and is involved with work (pdf) at Savannah River.

 

Babcock & Wilcox, an engineering energy firm, has a $3.3 billion contract for Savannah River and another contract with Pantex, the nation’s central facility for assembling and dismantling nuclear warheads.

 

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin runs the United States Energy Corporation on behalf of the Department of Energy, responsible for the day-to-day operations at the two gaseous diffusion plants (GDPs) being dismantled and cleaned up under the guidance of EM. Lockheed Martin also runs the Sandia National Laboratories for DOE.

 

Battelle, an international science and technology firm, co-operates the Oak Ridge facility in conjunction with the University of Tennessee. Another prominent higher education stakeholder is the University of California, which was the sole manager of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California until 2007. Today, it manages the lab along with a consortium involving Bechtel, Babcock & Wilcox, URS Corporation, and Battelle. Los Alamos National Security LLC, consisting of the University of California system, Bechtel, Babcock & Wilcox, and URS Corporation, runs Los Alamos National Laboratory, the original home of the Manhattan Project.

 

The EM manages a cleanup project at the Nevada National Security Site, the nation’s primary testing ground for nuclear explosions from the 1950s until the 1990s. The site is managed by National Security Technologies LLC, a joint venture involving defense contractor Northrop Grumman, construction corporation AECOM, CH2M Hill, and Babcock & Wilcox.

 

Public interest and citizens groups that monitor the EM’s work include Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety & Health, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Snake River Alliance, Atlanta Women’s Action for New Directions, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and the Sierra Club.

 

Several federal and state government entities are also involved with EM projects. The Oak Ridge and Paducah GDPs are listed on the EPA’s National Priorities List and have negotiated Federal Facility Agreements with their respective state and regulators. Portsmouth is regulated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) and has negotiated a Consent Order with the state of Ohio. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) also has been very active in this cleanup effort.

 

Other groups closely involved with the EM include:

  • Energy Communities Alliance (ECA) - Established in 1992, the ECA brings together elected and appointed local government officials in energy communities to share and exchange information, establish policy positions and advocate community interests with the DOE.
  • http://www.em.doe.gov/pdfs/Statement of intent.pdfEnvironmental Council of the States (ECOS) - The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) is the national non-profit, non-partisan association of state and territorial environmental agency leaders.
  • National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) - NAAG and DOE have established a working group of Assistant Attorneys General and key DOE staff to discuss current regulatory and statutory enforcement/compliance issues. The parties work toward their common goals of ensuring the protection of human health and the environment through the cleanup and the proper management of DOE activities.
  • National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) - The Department of Energy funds a cooperative agreement with NCSL that provides both logistical and staff support for the State and Tribal Government Working Group (STGWG) as well as meeting with elected legislatures from states with particular interests in EM activities. With the support of this agreement, the NCSL serves as a conduit for informational exchange regarding the cleanup of the nuclear weapons complex between DOE, state legislatures, legislative staff, state executive branch staff, and tribal government representatives.
  • The State and Tribal Government Working Group (STGWG) - 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.

Recovery Act: Most DOE Cleanup Projects Are Complete, but Project Management Guidance Could Be Strengthened (Government Accountability Office) (pdf)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Controversies:

Hanford Tanks Leaking

Within the Hanford Nuclear Reservation along the Columbia River in Washington State, six underground storage tanks were found to be leaking radioactive waste in 2013. Some of the tanks held as much as 500,000-750,000 gallons of dangerous fluid that was slowing seeping into the soil.

 

State and federal officials said the leaks didn’t pose an immediate threat to human health, since the tanks were located more than five miles from the Columbia River.

 

The newly discovered problem only added to the soil contamination at Hanford, which was used for five decades to produce plutonium for the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

 

There were nearly 150 tanks similar in size and design to the six spilling radioactive liquid and sludge at the site. Four of the six tanks had leaked in the past and were supposed to have been stabilized in 2005. The news led the state’s governor, Jay Inslee, to wonder about the “integrity” of the other tanks.

 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reported that the tanks were leaking at a rate of up to 300 gallons per year.

 

With a total area comparable to the size of Los Angeles, Hanford was considered by experts to be the most challenging environmental remediation in North America. The nuclear site was built near the city of Hanford in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, the secret U.S. government research program that produced the first atomic bombs. Federal environmental regulators estimated the site contained more than 130 million cubic yards of radioactive soil, thanks in large part to the dumping of 475 billion gallons of contaminated wastewater into the ground during the Cold War.

 

Later that same year, it was reported that the contractor hired to clean the leaking tanks had admitted to committing fraud. The company, CH2M Hill Hanford Group Inc. (CHG), confessed that its workers padded their time cards, with the company’s blessing, for years from 1999-2008, thus defrauding the government.

 

CHG’s parent company, CH2M Hill Companies Ltd., agreed to pay $18.5 million for the wrongdoing, and commit another $500,000 toward improving the subsidiary’s accountability systems.

Hanford double-wall tank may be leaking ‘screaming hot’ N-waste (by Hal Bernton, Seattle Times)

6 tanks at Hanford nuclear site in Wash. leaking (CBS News)

Six Underground Tanks Leaking Nuclear Waste in Washington State (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

As Hanford Radioactive Leak Continues, Clean-Up Contractor Pays Fraud Penalty (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Plutonium Cleanup in Washington State Could Take Millennia (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

 

New Mexico Questions Taking Hanford Nuclear Waste

The DOE hoped in 2013 to move 3.1 million gallons of radioactive waste from its Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state to a waste disposal facility in New Mexico. But political leaders in New Mexico as well as environmental groups objected to the plan and called for public hearings into the matter.

 

The outcry resulted in New Mexico officials declining DOE’s request for quick approval of the proposal to transfer the radioactive waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad.

 

Instead, the New Mexico Environment Department planned to hold public hearings before any decisions were made.

 

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) said WIPP specifically prohibited waste from Hanford. He added that any proposal to modify permit language in this case would need “strong justification and public input.”

NM to hold public hearings on Hanford waste move to WIPP (Associated Press)

Hanford Nuclear Waste May Be Shipped From Washington To New Mexico, Officials Say (by Shannon Dininny, Associated Press)

 

Changes at Oak Ridge

The DOE decided in 2011 to reorganize the agency’s Oak Ridge Office to cut costs and to make it more efficient. But the move upset many local residents who feared they would lose input into operations at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, nuclear facility.

 

One change called for the assistant managers in Oak Ridge heading the Environmental Management (EM) program, as well as the facility’s science and nuclear energy programs, to report directly to the DOE headquarters in Washington D.C. (instead of reporting to DOE’s Oak Ridge manager).

 

The organizational realignment also did away with a layer of management to reduce administrative costs. In addition, the Contracts and Finance Divisions at the Oak Ridge office would be combined under the Oak Ridge chief financial officer.

 

These changes generated controversy in the Oak Ridge area because of concerns that they would reduce the power of the local DOE field office and weaken the community’s influence, moving more decision making to Washington.

DOE moving forward with controversial reorganization plan in Oak Ridge (by Frank Munger, Knoxville News Sentinel)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Wikipedia)

 

Savannah Cleanup Causes Tensions

The Savannah River Site in South Carolina, once a key part of the United States’ nuclear weapons complex, has undergone cleanup operations for decades and endured considerable strife between officials at the facility and their overseers in Washington D.C.

 

The DOE’s inspector general conducted a wide-ranging inquiry into accusations lobbed from both sides and found an “unusual level of distrust and acrimony” among officials in charge of the highly contaminated nuclear site.

 

Exacerbating the infighting was the decision to award $1.6 billion in federal stimulus money by the Obama administration in an effort to speed up remediation efforts. But the stimulus funds had the effect of heightening tensions between officials in Savannah and Washington.

 

Things got so bad that an inquiry was held into whether one female federal stimulus official really did threaten another by saying she’d like to shoot him.

 

The Savannah River Site once produced 40% of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile during the Cold War.

 

Some progress has been made at the site where, in June 2011, workers managed finally to seal the P and R reactors, two of the plant’s five decommissioned reactors. The remaining three will be sealed at a later date.

Recovery Funds Remove and Secure Nuclear Waste (Recovery.gov)

Report Cites Crippling Infighting at Nuclear Site (by Michael Cooper, New York Times)

Nuclear Site Finds Money Can Bring Headaches (by Michael Cooper, New York Times)

Savannah River Site (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

 

Cleanup Safety Risks Underplayed

The cleanup project at the Hanford nuclear fuel factory in Washington state became embroiled in controversy in 2011 when Bechtel National Inc., the company in charge of the operation, was accused of underplaying safety risks at the toxic site.

 

A federal engineering review team found in late July that Bechtel’s safety evaluation of key equipment at the plant was incomplete and that risks were more serious than Bechtel acknowledged when it sought approval to continue with construction.

 

The Department of Energy, which oversees Hanford, asserted that Bechtel failed to do its job properly while implementing the tasks of removing radioactive soil and man-made materials. Some workers turned into whistleblowers to draw attention to scientific assessments that had been dismissed and managers who had allegedly abused their power. Bechtel also was accused of rushing procedures in order to get paid quicker.

 

The following year, a local watchdog organization, Hanford Challenge, released a DOE memo urging the termination of the key duties of Bechtel.

 

The document reportedly listed numerous problems with Bechtel’s work and questioned whether it should continue its role at Hanford.

 

Once a cornerstone of America’s nuclear weapons production, Hanford has become a colossal cleanup project that has dragged on for decades, costing billions of dollars (at least 250% over budget) and sparking controversy between the federal government and the company in charge of the reclamation.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the Hanford site contains more than 130 million cubic yards of radioactive soil, thanks in large part to the dumping of 475 billion gallons of contaminated wastewater into the ground during the Cold War.

Safety doubts raised at U.S. nuclear waste cleanup project (by Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times)

Energy Dept. Accuses Bechtel of Botching Nuclear Cleanup in Washington (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Government Memo Slams Bechtel for Malfeasance, Safety Violations at Hanford Nuclear Site (Alliance for Nuclear Accountability)

 

Noncompetition for Site Cleanup Contracts

Nearly half of the $16 billion in contracts awarded by the federal government in President Barack Obama’s first year in office were noncompetitive, non-fixed-price deals.

 

A spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said $7.8 billion was awarded without bidding and specified price because many of these contracts were from the Department of Energy for environmental management and clean up.

 

For instance, $1.27 billion was given to Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC to clean up the former uranium production site in South Carolina for nuclear weapons. CH2M Hill received $1.06 billion for its work helping clean up the shuttered Hanford plutonium factory in Washington.

 

The OMB was later able to report that contracts awarded without competition dropped 10% during the first half of fiscal year 2010, compared to the same period in 2009. Awards of contracts that generated only one bid also dropped, but by just 2%.

Half of stimulus contract spending falls into risky categories (by Elizabeth Newell Jochum, Government Executive)

Use of non-compete contracts drops (by Ed O’Keefe, Washington Post)

Half of Stimulus Dollars Awarded without Competition or Fixed Price (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

 

Sense of Direction

In 2006 the Office of Environmental Management was in trouble. Having completed 80% of the original 108 sites that the EM was charged with cleaning up, the organization found itself suffering from what one study called a “going out of business” mentality. The report by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) found “an organization facing several serious challenges as it struggled to redefine and reorganize itself.” The NAPA also cited criticisms from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the DOE Inspector General, and interested observers that the EM was taking too long to award contracts, the work was going substantially slower than predicted, and the cost was substantially more than projected. The office was also suffering from a drastic reduction in staff levels, which had decreased 40% since the beginning of the George W. Bush administration.

 

To turn things around, James Rispoli was selected to take over EM’s leadership, and he set about implementing a reorganization of its headquarters.

 

The NAPA pointed out that, “Although bolstered by its new mission and the sense of security it provided to staff, [EM] was hampered by the lack of a systematic approach

to re-charting the organization’s new direction.” It also suffered from “organization and management issues that included a lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities in headquarters and between headquarters and the field; insufficient acquisition and personnel delegations of authority; and human capital challenges.”

NAPA Report on EM Operations (pdf)

 

Delays and Stakeholder Bickering

One of the major responsibilities of EM is overseeing the Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund (D&D Fund), created for the cleanup of former uranium enrichment facilities at the gaseous diffusion plants (GDPs) in Ohio and Kentucky. The GAO twice reported earlier this decade that cleanup efforts at the Paducah site (Kentucky) had fallen behind schedule and over budget. Originally, it was reported by DOE that work would be completed by 2010 at a cost of $1.3 billion. A subsequent projection stated that decontamination and decommissioning wouldn’t be expected to conclude until 2019, at a cost of at least an additional $300 million.

 

A 2000 GAO report noted that energy officials were planning to use untested technology for cleanup at Paducah, and that they were also relying on questionable assumptions about funding increases for the project. Although these concerns were gone by the time of the 2004 GAO report, the federal watchdog office noted another serious problem: stakeholder bickering. DOE, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and state officials in Kentucky have had difficulty agreeing on an overall cleanup approach, as well as on the details of specific projects. These disagreements have, according to GAO, “undermined trust and damaged the parties’ working relationship.”

 

The GAO also found that DOE officials had stopped including EPA and Kentucky officials in the cleanup planning process (which it had done successfully at other sites) because of concerns about the growing cleanup scope, associated costs and that the planned actions were excessive in relation to the risk. The result was an almost two-year dispute that delayed progress. This poor working relationship has also prevented the parties from quickly reaching agreement on the technical details of specific projects.

GAO Report on Paducah Site (pdf)

GAO Report on Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund (pdf)

GAO Report on Extension of Uranium Fund (pdf)

 

Lack of Community Involvement

In February 2008, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) complained to then-DOE Secretary Samuel Bodman that his department was preparing to move forward on the Portsmouth GDP site (Ohio) without input from local citizens. In his letter to Bodman, Brown said DOE had yet to engage the local community in the creation of DOE’s long-term cleanup plans, even though the department had done so at every other major cleanup site around the nation.

 

Traditionally, the DOE establishes a community advisory board that creates a mechanism for local leaders to have input into the cleanup. Such boards provide feedback on important issues like future uses of the site and how reclamation should proceed.

 

Later that year, the Portsmouth Site Specific Advisory Board was established in Piketon, Ohio. It is composed of up to 20 voluntary members—each appointed by the DOE—chosen to reflect both the diversity of persons living near the Portsmouth site and the concerns of the communities impacted by environmental management of the site.

Brown Blasts Energy Department About Piketon Cleanup Announcement Without Community Input (Sherrod Brown Web Site)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Former Directors:

David Huizenga (Acting)       July 2011 –

Inés R. Triay                           May 2009 –

Inés R. Triay (Acting)             November 2008 – May 2009

James Rispoli                        August 2005 – November 2008

 

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Comments

Thomas Peterson 5 years ago
Asst. Sec. Ines Triay, I am a beryllium affected worker from Hanford who has Chronic Beryllium Disease. I have not worked since Oct.,2004 due to the CBD. I am still invovled with the Beryllium Awareness Group (BAG) and also involved with the creation of the new site wide CBDPP. While this is a giant step in the right direction , it was to be in place Jan.7, 2002 not 2009. DOE has always used ACGIH TLV's for establishing action levels because they are usually more protective and r...

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Founded: 1989
Annual Budget: $5.65 billion
Employees: 2,700 as of fourth quarter of 2012; expected to decline through 2013 as projects wind down
Office of Environmental Management
Triay, Inés
Assistant Secretary

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. 

Born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico, Triay, 51, came to the United States when she was three years old. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry, magna cum laude, and her PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Miami in Florida. Beginning in 1985, she conducted her post-doctoral studies in the Isotope and Nuclear Chemistry Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the nation’s leading scientific research centers for weapons development and other technologies.
 
She stayed on at Los Alamos for the next 14 years, holding several key positions, including Los Alamos’ environmental representative to the Air Force at the Pentagon, as a recruiter for the laboratory, and as leader of the Isotope and Environmental Geochemistry Group. In 1994, she was put in charge of Los Alamos’ Environmental Science and Waste Technology Group, and from October 1997 to January 1998, she served as acting deputy director of the Chemical Science and Technology Division.
 
In April 1999, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson named Triay manager of the Energy Department’s Carlsbad Field Office in New Mexico. Her duties included overseeing the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the nation’s only deep geologic repository for the disposal of transuranic waste. (Transuranic elements, most notably plutonium, have atomic numbers higher than uranium, and they are radioactive. Transuranic waste is generally contaminated during the production of nuclear weapons.) During her tenure, the number of transuranic waste shipments to the plant increased from one or two per week to 25 per week.
 
However, in October 2003, it was revealed that 98 drums of nuclear waste arriving at the WIPP had not been properly inspected. Later that month Triay announced her resignation from the department and said that she would start her own company “in the area of homeland security,” In fact, she did not actually leave until January 2004, by which time no company had been started and instead she was in Washington, DC, working for OEM as deputy chief operations officer. She was later promoted to chief operations officer in 2005. During her tenure in these positions, OEM completed the cleanup of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons site in Colorado and the Fernald uranium processing plant in Ohio. She also played an instrumental role in the commencement of remote-handled transuranic waste disposal operations at the WIPP in New Mexico.

In October 2007, Triay was named Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for OEM, the top civil service position for the office. She became acting Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management in November 2008.
 
Triay is a member of numerous professional organizations and has produced more than 150 articles, papers, reports, and presentations for professional conferences and workshops, as well as major trade publications.
 
Since 2001, she has made $3,500 in political contributions, all to two Republicans—George W. Bush ($2,000) and New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici ($1,500), according to OpenSecrets.org.
 
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Rispoli, James
Previous Assistant Secretary
James Rispoli served as Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management from August 2005 until November 22, 2008. In his capacity as head of the Office of Environmental Management, Rispoli also oversaw the management of the Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund.
 
He earned his Bachelor of Engineering degree in civil engineering from Manhattan College and a Master of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of New Hampshire. Additionally, he holds a master’s degree in business from Central Michigan University. Following college he joined the US Navy and rose to the rank of captain while serving in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps, holding executive level environmental and construction management positions.
 
Rispoli later joined Metcalf and Eddy, an environmental engineering firm, where he served as senior vice president with responsibility for its Hawaii offices. He then joined the engineering firm of Dames & Moore’s and served as vice president and manager of the firm’s Pacific area operations. In both firms, he led major engineering and construction projects for private clients, state and federal governmental agencies.
 
Rispoli moved on to the Department of Energy, where he served as senior real property officer and then director of Office of Engineering and Construction Management. He also was a member of the Federal Energy Management Advisory Committee.
 
A fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Rispoli is past director of its construction division and has served in several local section officer positions. He is also a fellow of the Society of American Military Engineers, for which he has held several officer positions at the local post level and served as the national society’s vice president for environmental affairs. Rispoli is an active member of the Project Management Institute for whom he has served on a number of panels and study efforts.
 
 
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Overview:

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 the EM. The agency has succeeded in completing cleanup at 90 nuclear sites, and continues its efforts at 17 additional sites located in 11 states.

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History:

From 1945 until 1989 the U.S. 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, U.S. 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.”

 

Over the second half of the 20th century, the U.S. spent approximately $300 billion on nuclear weapons research, production, and testing (in 1995 dollars). At its peak, the nuclear weapons complex consisted of 16 major facilities, including vast reservations of land in the states of Nevada, Tennessee, Idaho, Washington, and South Carolina. It ranged from tracts of isolated desert in Nevada, where weapons were tested, to warehouses in downtown New York that once stored uranium. Its national laboratories in New Mexico and California designed weapons with production of various components in Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Washington.

 

The nuclear weapons complex generated vast amounts of waste, pollution, and contamination. The U.S. reportedly has 70,000 tons of radioactive spent fuel from commercial and defense nuclear reactors, 88 million gallons of high-level waste left over from plutonium processing, in excess of 10,000 containers of excess plutonium and uranium, more than 5,000 contaminated facilities, millions of cubic meters of contaminated soil, billions of gallons of contaminated groundwater, millions of cubic feet of contaminated low-level waste (such as tools, metal scraps, clothing, oils, solvents, and other materials), plus some 265 million tons of tailings from milling uranium ore. Some of the most serious contamination has existed at three locations where uranium was enriched (see the Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund).

 

The price tag for cleanup is estimated in the range of $200 to $350 billion. This includes unique radiation hazards, unprecedented volumes of contaminated water and soil, and a vast number of contaminated structures ranging from reactors to chemical plants for extracting nuclear materials to evaporation ponds. Early in the nuclear age, scientists involved with the weapons complex raised serious questions about its waste management practices. Shortly after the establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission, which oversaw the nuclear weapons complex until DOE was created in the 1970s, a 12-man Safety and Industrial Health Advisory Board reported that the “disposal of contaminated waste in present quantities and by present methods...if continued for decades, presents the gravest of problems.”

 

In 1989 workers at the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado, one of the nation’s most important and polluted nuclear weapons facilities, loaded the last plutonium “trigger” for a nuclear warhead into a tractor trailer bound southeast to the warhead-assembly Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas. With the Cold War coming to an end, the federal government began addressing its contaminated legacy. That same year the Office of Environmental Management (EM) was established to begin this gargantuan task.

 

Since its creation, the EM has completed nuclear waste cleanup at 90 nuclear sites, and continues its efforts at 17 additional sites located in 11 states, covering a total area of 243 square miles.

 

In October 2012, the General Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the DOE estimates it will cost more than $300 billion, over a period of several decades, for the EM to complete the cleanup of the sites under its jurisdiction. In addition to government appropriations, some of EM’s funding comes from the 2009 Recovery Act. Going forward, it provides about $6 billion for the agency to complete its work, an investment that is said to result in a long-term savings of $7 billion.

Waste Locations by State

NEI - Resources and Stats

Half Life: The Lethal Legacy of America’s Nuclear Waste (by Michael E. Long, National Geographic)

Environmental Management History

National Museum of Nuclear Science and History – Manhattan Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What it Does:

Located within the 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. The EM identifies, plans, and carries out cleanup activities in accordance with the principles of DOE Order 413.3A (Program and Project Management for the Acquisition of Capital Assets) and DOE Manual 413.3-1 (Project Management for the Acquisition of Capital Assets). These documents define the principles of project management that are applied to all EM cleanup activities. The EM is responsible for providing oversight to ensure that all parties involved in projects adhere to the principles of the Project Management Order and Manual.

 

The EM provides a list (pdf) of the 90 closure sites where cleanup and restoration have been completed. It also provides a map from which can be accessed each of the 17 active projects it currently oversees. These 17 span 11 states and cover a total area of 243 square miles. Among these sites are:

  • Hanford Site – Over the course of more than 40 years, the Hanford, Washington, site produced more than 20 million pieces of uranium metal fuel that result in the processing of 110,000 tons of fuel from nine nuclear reactors. It resulted in 53 million gallons of radioactive waste disposed in 177 underground tanks. Cleanup commenced in 1989 and is currently performed by 11,000 workers. More than a billion dollars in funding was requested for the Hanford Site in 2013.
  • Idaho National Laboratory – Over the years, 52 nuclear reactors have been built on this site. Three are in operation today. One disposal facility contains a 510,000 cubic yard landfill, and a waste treatment center handles 900,000 gallons of waste stored in underground tanks. Several of its programs require the removal of waste by the end of 2018. Funding request for this site in 2013 was $405.3 million.
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory – Environmental restoration and cleanup work is organized into several projects that have responsibility for different aspects of environmental restoration. Their goal is to ensure that residual contaminants from past operations don’t threaten human or environmental health and safety. Investigations and cleanup of areas contaminated from those operations are ongoing. Funding request for 2013 was $239.1 million.
  • Moab Site – Scheduled for 2013 is the disposal of nearly a million tons of radioactive mill tailings. Amount requested for cleanup in 2013 was $30.9 million.
  • Oak Ridge Reservation – Facility deactivation and decommissioning is underway in 2013 in support of the planned 2015 completion of the K-25 facility. Funding request for 2013 was $421.2 million.

Additional active cleanup sites and their FY 2013 requested funding amounts include:

 

2013 Environmental Management Statement to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development (pdf)

 

Examples of the kind of work EM performs are:

  • Constructing and operating facilities to treat radioactive liquid tank waste into a safe, stable form to enable ultimate disposition.
  • Securing and storing nuclear material in a stable, safe configuration in secure locations to protect national security.
  • Transporting and disposing of transuranic and low-level wastes in a safe and cost effective manner to reduce risk.
  • Decontaminating and decommissioning facilities that provide no further value to reduce long-term liabilities and maximize resources for cleanup.
  • Remediating soil and ground water contaminated with the radioactive and hazardous constituents.

 

From the Web Site of the Office of Environmental Management

Cleanup Sites

Contact Information

Five-Year Plan

History

Jobs and Internships

Leadership

Mission

News

Newsletter Archive

Organization

Press Releases

Project of the Month

Services

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where Does the Money Go:

The Office of Environmental Management (EM) has spent more than $1.1 billion on 2,833 contractor transactions during the past decade, according to USAspending.gov. The top five types of products or services were management support ($270,248,920), operation of government waste treatment storage facilities ($200,000,000), program management and support ($69,806,211), maintenance and repair of office buildings ($49,615,377), and transportation/travel/relocation/lodging/recruitment via passenger air charter ($47,214,595).

 

The top five recipients of EM’s contractor spending between 2003 and 2013 were:

1. The Plateau Group LLC                                         $243,596,093 

2. URS Corporation                                                    $200,000,000 

3. Battelle Memorial Institute Inc.                                $56,422,043 

4. SEACOR Holdings Inc.                                           $47,178,519 

5. CAPE Environmental Management Inc.                  $47,105,176

 

Those with vested interests in the work of the EM range from defense contractors and multinational engineering and construction firms to grass-roots citizens groups, universities, and state and local governments. Approximately 34,000 contractor employees work at sites that the EM oversees. Among these private contractors is Fluor, an international engineering and construction firm, which had a $9.5 billion contract to handle cleanup operations at Fernald, a former uranium processing facility in Ohio, and—from 1996 to 2008—a contract for work 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 the Savannah River cleanup) and CH2M Hill, which is handling cleanup work (pdf) through 2015 at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and is involved with work (pdf) at Savannah River.

 

Babcock & Wilcox, an engineering energy firm, has a $3.3 billion contract for Savannah River and another contract with Pantex, the nation’s central facility for assembling and dismantling nuclear warheads.

 

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin runs the United States Energy Corporation on behalf of the Department of Energy, responsible for the day-to-day operations at the two gaseous diffusion plants (GDPs) being dismantled and cleaned up under the guidance of EM. Lockheed Martin also runs the Sandia National Laboratories for DOE.

 

Battelle, an international science and technology firm, co-operates the Oak Ridge facility in conjunction with the University of Tennessee. Another prominent higher education stakeholder is the University of California, which was the sole manager of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California until 2007. Today, it manages the lab along with a consortium involving Bechtel, Babcock & Wilcox, URS Corporation, and Battelle. Los Alamos National Security LLC, consisting of the University of California system, Bechtel, Babcock & Wilcox, and URS Corporation, runs Los Alamos National Laboratory, the original home of the Manhattan Project.

 

The EM manages a cleanup project at the Nevada National Security Site, the nation’s primary testing ground for nuclear explosions from the 1950s until the 1990s. The site is managed by National Security Technologies LLC, a joint venture involving defense contractor Northrop Grumman, construction corporation AECOM, CH2M Hill, and Babcock & Wilcox.

 

Public interest and citizens groups that monitor the EM’s work include Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety & Health, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Snake River Alliance, Atlanta Women’s Action for New Directions, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and the Sierra Club.

 

Several federal and state government entities are also involved with EM projects. The Oak Ridge and Paducah GDPs are listed on the EPA’s National Priorities List and have negotiated Federal Facility Agreements with their respective state and regulators. Portsmouth is regulated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) and has negotiated a Consent Order with the state of Ohio. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) also has been very active in this cleanup effort.

 

Other groups closely involved with the EM include:

  • Energy Communities Alliance (ECA) - Established in 1992, the ECA brings together elected and appointed local government officials in energy communities to share and exchange information, establish policy positions and advocate community interests with the DOE.
  • http://www.em.doe.gov/pdfs/Statement of intent.pdfEnvironmental Council of the States (ECOS) - The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) is the national non-profit, non-partisan association of state and territorial environmental agency leaders.
  • National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) - NAAG and DOE have established a working group of Assistant Attorneys General and key DOE staff to discuss current regulatory and statutory enforcement/compliance issues. The parties work toward their common goals of ensuring the protection of human health and the environment through the cleanup and the proper management of DOE activities.
  • National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) - The Department of Energy funds a cooperative agreement with NCSL that provides both logistical and staff support for the State and Tribal Government Working Group (STGWG) as well as meeting with elected legislatures from states with particular interests in EM activities. With the support of this agreement, the NCSL serves as a conduit for informational exchange regarding the cleanup of the nuclear weapons complex between DOE, state legislatures, legislative staff, state executive branch staff, and tribal government representatives.
  • The State and Tribal Government Working Group (STGWG) - 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.

Recovery Act: Most DOE Cleanup Projects Are Complete, but Project Management Guidance Could Be Strengthened (Government Accountability Office) (pdf)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Controversies:

Hanford Tanks Leaking

Within the Hanford Nuclear Reservation along the Columbia River in Washington State, six underground storage tanks were found to be leaking radioactive waste in 2013. Some of the tanks held as much as 500,000-750,000 gallons of dangerous fluid that was slowing seeping into the soil.

 

State and federal officials said the leaks didn’t pose an immediate threat to human health, since the tanks were located more than five miles from the Columbia River.

 

The newly discovered problem only added to the soil contamination at Hanford, which was used for five decades to produce plutonium for the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

 

There were nearly 150 tanks similar in size and design to the six spilling radioactive liquid and sludge at the site. Four of the six tanks had leaked in the past and were supposed to have been stabilized in 2005. The news led the state’s governor, Jay Inslee, to wonder about the “integrity” of the other tanks.

 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reported that the tanks were leaking at a rate of up to 300 gallons per year.

 

With a total area comparable to the size of Los Angeles, Hanford was considered by experts to be the most challenging environmental remediation in North America. The nuclear site was built near the city of Hanford in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, the secret U.S. government research program that produced the first atomic bombs. Federal environmental regulators estimated the site contained more than 130 million cubic yards of radioactive soil, thanks in large part to the dumping of 475 billion gallons of contaminated wastewater into the ground during the Cold War.

 

Later that same year, it was reported that the contractor hired to clean the leaking tanks had admitted to committing fraud. The company, CH2M Hill Hanford Group Inc. (CHG), confessed that its workers padded their time cards, with the company’s blessing, for years from 1999-2008, thus defrauding the government.

 

CHG’s parent company, CH2M Hill Companies Ltd., agreed to pay $18.5 million for the wrongdoing, and commit another $500,000 toward improving the subsidiary’s accountability systems.

Hanford double-wall tank may be leaking ‘screaming hot’ N-waste (by Hal Bernton, Seattle Times)

6 tanks at Hanford nuclear site in Wash. leaking (CBS News)

Six Underground Tanks Leaking Nuclear Waste in Washington State (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

As Hanford Radioactive Leak Continues, Clean-Up Contractor Pays Fraud Penalty (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Plutonium Cleanup in Washington State Could Take Millennia (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

 

New Mexico Questions Taking Hanford Nuclear Waste

The DOE hoped in 2013 to move 3.1 million gallons of radioactive waste from its Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state to a waste disposal facility in New Mexico. But political leaders in New Mexico as well as environmental groups objected to the plan and called for public hearings into the matter.

 

The outcry resulted in New Mexico officials declining DOE’s request for quick approval of the proposal to transfer the radioactive waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad.

 

Instead, the New Mexico Environment Department planned to hold public hearings before any decisions were made.

 

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) said WIPP specifically prohibited waste from Hanford. He added that any proposal to modify permit language in this case would need “strong justification and public input.”

NM to hold public hearings on Hanford waste move to WIPP (Associated Press)

Hanford Nuclear Waste May Be Shipped From Washington To New Mexico, Officials Say (by Shannon Dininny, Associated Press)

 

Changes at Oak Ridge

The DOE decided in 2011 to reorganize the agency’s Oak Ridge Office to cut costs and to make it more efficient. But the move upset many local residents who feared they would lose input into operations at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, nuclear facility.

 

One change called for the assistant managers in Oak Ridge heading the Environmental Management (EM) program, as well as the facility’s science and nuclear energy programs, to report directly to the DOE headquarters in Washington D.C. (instead of reporting to DOE’s Oak Ridge manager).

 

The organizational realignment also did away with a layer of management to reduce administrative costs. In addition, the Contracts and Finance Divisions at the Oak Ridge office would be combined under the Oak Ridge chief financial officer.

 

These changes generated controversy in the Oak Ridge area because of concerns that they would reduce the power of the local DOE field office and weaken the community’s influence, moving more decision making to Washington.

DOE moving forward with controversial reorganization plan in Oak Ridge (by Frank Munger, Knoxville News Sentinel)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Wikipedia)

 

Savannah Cleanup Causes Tensions

The Savannah River Site in South Carolina, once a key part of the United States’ nuclear weapons complex, has undergone cleanup operations for decades and endured considerable strife between officials at the facility and their overseers in Washington D.C.

 

The DOE’s inspector general conducted a wide-ranging inquiry into accusations lobbed from both sides and found an “unusual level of distrust and acrimony” among officials in charge of the highly contaminated nuclear site.

 

Exacerbating the infighting was the decision to award $1.6 billion in federal stimulus money by the Obama administration in an effort to speed up remediation efforts. But the stimulus funds had the effect of heightening tensions between officials in Savannah and Washington.

 

Things got so bad that an inquiry was held into whether one female federal stimulus official really did threaten another by saying she’d like to shoot him.

 

The Savannah River Site once produced 40% of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile during the Cold War.

 

Some progress has been made at the site where, in June 2011, workers managed finally to seal the P and R reactors, two of the plant’s five decommissioned reactors. The remaining three will be sealed at a later date.

Recovery Funds Remove and Secure Nuclear Waste (Recovery.gov)

Report Cites Crippling Infighting at Nuclear Site (by Michael Cooper, New York Times)

Nuclear Site Finds Money Can Bring Headaches (by Michael Cooper, New York Times)

Savannah River Site (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

 

Cleanup Safety Risks Underplayed

The cleanup project at the Hanford nuclear fuel factory in Washington state became embroiled in controversy in 2011 when Bechtel National Inc., the company in charge of the operation, was accused of underplaying safety risks at the toxic site.

 

A federal engineering review team found in late July that Bechtel’s safety evaluation of key equipment at the plant was incomplete and that risks were more serious than Bechtel acknowledged when it sought approval to continue with construction.

 

The Department of Energy, which oversees Hanford, asserted that Bechtel failed to do its job properly while implementing the tasks of removing radioactive soil and man-made materials. Some workers turned into whistleblowers to draw attention to scientific assessments that had been dismissed and managers who had allegedly abused their power. Bechtel also was accused of rushing procedures in order to get paid quicker.

 

The following year, a local watchdog organization, Hanford Challenge, released a DOE memo urging the termination of the key duties of Bechtel.

 

The document reportedly listed numerous problems with Bechtel’s work and questioned whether it should continue its role at Hanford.

 

Once a cornerstone of America’s nuclear weapons production, Hanford has become a colossal cleanup project that has dragged on for decades, costing billions of dollars (at least 250% over budget) and sparking controversy between the federal government and the company in charge of the reclamation.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the Hanford site contains more than 130 million cubic yards of radioactive soil, thanks in large part to the dumping of 475 billion gallons of contaminated wastewater into the ground during the Cold War.

Safety doubts raised at U.S. nuclear waste cleanup project (by Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times)

Energy Dept. Accuses Bechtel of Botching Nuclear Cleanup in Washington (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Government Memo Slams Bechtel for Malfeasance, Safety Violations at Hanford Nuclear Site (Alliance for Nuclear Accountability)

 

Noncompetition for Site Cleanup Contracts

Nearly half of the $16 billion in contracts awarded by the federal government in President Barack Obama’s first year in office were noncompetitive, non-fixed-price deals.

 

A spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said $7.8 billion was awarded without bidding and specified price because many of these contracts were from the Department of Energy for environmental management and clean up.

 

For instance, $1.27 billion was given to Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC to clean up the former uranium production site in South Carolina for nuclear weapons. CH2M Hill received $1.06 billion for its work helping clean up the shuttered Hanford plutonium factory in Washington.

 

The OMB was later able to report that contracts awarded without competition dropped 10% during the first half of fiscal year 2010, compared to the same period in 2009. Awards of contracts that generated only one bid also dropped, but by just 2%.

Half of stimulus contract spending falls into risky categories (by Elizabeth Newell Jochum, Government Executive)

Use of non-compete contracts drops (by Ed O’Keefe, Washington Post)

Half of Stimulus Dollars Awarded without Competition or Fixed Price (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

 

Sense of Direction

In 2006 the Office of Environmental Management was in trouble. Having completed 80% of the original 108 sites that the EM was charged with cleaning up, the organization found itself suffering from what one study called a “going out of business” mentality. The report by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) found “an organization facing several serious challenges as it struggled to redefine and reorganize itself.” The NAPA also cited criticisms from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the DOE Inspector General, and interested observers that the EM was taking too long to award contracts, the work was going substantially slower than predicted, and the cost was substantially more than projected. The office was also suffering from a drastic reduction in staff levels, which had decreased 40% since the beginning of the George W. Bush administration.

 

To turn things around, James Rispoli was selected to take over EM’s leadership, and he set about implementing a reorganization of its headquarters.

 

The NAPA pointed out that, “Although bolstered by its new mission and the sense of security it provided to staff, [EM] was hampered by the lack of a systematic approach

to re-charting the organization’s new direction.” It also suffered from “organization and management issues that included a lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities in headquarters and between headquarters and the field; insufficient acquisition and personnel delegations of authority; and human capital challenges.”

NAPA Report on EM Operations (pdf)

 

Delays and Stakeholder Bickering

One of the major responsibilities of EM is overseeing the Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund (D&D Fund), created for the cleanup of former uranium enrichment facilities at the gaseous diffusion plants (GDPs) in Ohio and Kentucky. The GAO twice reported earlier this decade that cleanup efforts at the Paducah site (Kentucky) had fallen behind schedule and over budget. Originally, it was reported by DOE that work would be completed by 2010 at a cost of $1.3 billion. A subsequent projection stated that decontamination and decommissioning wouldn’t be expected to conclude until 2019, at a cost of at least an additional $300 million.

 

A 2000 GAO report noted that energy officials were planning to use untested technology for cleanup at Paducah, and that they were also relying on questionable assumptions about funding increases for the project. Although these concerns were gone by the time of the 2004 GAO report, the federal watchdog office noted another serious problem: stakeholder bickering. DOE, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and state officials in Kentucky have had difficulty agreeing on an overall cleanup approach, as well as on the details of specific projects. These disagreements have, according to GAO, “undermined trust and damaged the parties’ working relationship.”

 

The GAO also found that DOE officials had stopped including EPA and Kentucky officials in the cleanup planning process (which it had done successfully at other sites) because of concerns about the growing cleanup scope, associated costs and that the planned actions were excessive in relation to the risk. The result was an almost two-year dispute that delayed progress. This poor working relationship has also prevented the parties from quickly reaching agreement on the technical details of specific projects.

GAO Report on Paducah Site (pdf)

GAO Report on Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund (pdf)

GAO Report on Extension of Uranium Fund (pdf)

 

Lack of Community Involvement

In February 2008, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) complained to then-DOE Secretary Samuel Bodman that his department was preparing to move forward on the Portsmouth GDP site (Ohio) without input from local citizens. In his letter to Bodman, Brown said DOE had yet to engage the local community in the creation of DOE’s long-term cleanup plans, even though the department had done so at every other major cleanup site around the nation.

 

Traditionally, the DOE establishes a community advisory board that creates a mechanism for local leaders to have input into the cleanup. Such boards provide feedback on important issues like future uses of the site and how reclamation should proceed.

 

Later that year, the Portsmouth Site Specific Advisory Board was established in Piketon, Ohio. It is composed of up to 20 voluntary members—each appointed by the DOE—chosen to reflect both the diversity of persons living near the Portsmouth site and the concerns of the communities impacted by environmental management of the site.

Brown Blasts Energy Department About Piketon Cleanup Announcement Without Community Input (Sherrod Brown Web Site)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Former Directors:

David Huizenga (Acting)       July 2011 –

Inés R. Triay                           May 2009 –

Inés R. Triay (Acting)             November 2008 – May 2009

James Rispoli                        August 2005 – November 2008

 

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Comments

Thomas Peterson 5 years ago
Asst. Sec. Ines Triay, I am a beryllium affected worker from Hanford who has Chronic Beryllium Disease. I have not worked since Oct.,2004 due to the CBD. I am still invovled with the Beryllium Awareness Group (BAG) and also involved with the creation of the new site wide CBDPP. While this is a giant step in the right direction , it was to be in place Jan.7, 2002 not 2009. DOE has always used ACGIH TLV's for establishing action levels because they are usually more protective and r...

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Founded: 1989
Annual Budget: $5.65 billion
Employees: 2,700 as of fourth quarter of 2012; expected to decline through 2013 as projects wind down
Office of Environmental Management
Triay, Inés
Assistant Secretary

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. 

Born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico, Triay, 51, came to the United States when she was three years old. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry, magna cum laude, and her PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Miami in Florida. Beginning in 1985, she conducted her post-doctoral studies in the Isotope and Nuclear Chemistry Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the nation’s leading scientific research centers for weapons development and other technologies.
 
She stayed on at Los Alamos for the next 14 years, holding several key positions, including Los Alamos’ environmental representative to the Air Force at the Pentagon, as a recruiter for the laboratory, and as leader of the Isotope and Environmental Geochemistry Group. In 1994, she was put in charge of Los Alamos’ Environmental Science and Waste Technology Group, and from October 1997 to January 1998, she served as acting deputy director of the Chemical Science and Technology Division.
 
In April 1999, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson named Triay manager of the Energy Department’s Carlsbad Field Office in New Mexico. Her duties included overseeing the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the nation’s only deep geologic repository for the disposal of transuranic waste. (Transuranic elements, most notably plutonium, have atomic numbers higher than uranium, and they are radioactive. Transuranic waste is generally contaminated during the production of nuclear weapons.) During her tenure, the number of transuranic waste shipments to the plant increased from one or two per week to 25 per week.
 
However, in October 2003, it was revealed that 98 drums of nuclear waste arriving at the WIPP had not been properly inspected. Later that month Triay announced her resignation from the department and said that she would start her own company “in the area of homeland security,” In fact, she did not actually leave until January 2004, by which time no company had been started and instead she was in Washington, DC, working for OEM as deputy chief operations officer. She was later promoted to chief operations officer in 2005. During her tenure in these positions, OEM completed the cleanup of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons site in Colorado and the Fernald uranium processing plant in Ohio. She also played an instrumental role in the commencement of remote-handled transuranic waste disposal operations at the WIPP in New Mexico.

In October 2007, Triay was named Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for OEM, the top civil service position for the office. She became acting Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management in November 2008.
 
Triay is a member of numerous professional organizations and has produced more than 150 articles, papers, reports, and presentations for professional conferences and workshops, as well as major trade publications.
 
Since 2001, she has made $3,500 in political contributions, all to two Republicans—George W. Bush ($2,000) and New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici ($1,500), according to OpenSecrets.org.
 
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Rispoli, James
Previous Assistant Secretary
James Rispoli served as Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management from August 2005 until November 22, 2008. In his capacity as head of the Office of Environmental Management, Rispoli also oversaw the management of the Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund.
 
He earned his Bachelor of Engineering degree in civil engineering from Manhattan College and a Master of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of New Hampshire. Additionally, he holds a master’s degree in business from Central Michigan University. Following college he joined the US Navy and rose to the rank of captain while serving in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps, holding executive level environmental and construction management positions.
 
Rispoli later joined Metcalf and Eddy, an environmental engineering firm, where he served as senior vice president with responsibility for its Hawaii offices. He then joined the engineering firm of Dames & Moore’s and served as vice president and manager of the firm’s Pacific area operations. In both firms, he led major engineering and construction projects for private clients, state and federal governmental agencies.
 
Rispoli moved on to the Department of Energy, where he served as senior real property officer and then director of Office of Engineering and Construction Management. He also was a member of the Federal Energy Management Advisory Committee.
 
A fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Rispoli is past director of its construction division and has served in several local section officer positions. He is also a fellow of the Society of American Military Engineers, for which he has held several officer positions at the local post level and served as the national society’s vice president for environmental affairs. Rispoli is an active member of the Project Management Institute for whom he has served on a number of panels and study efforts.
 
 
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