Key elements of the cleanup program and lessons learned

The most important part of the DOE cleanup program is safety, which is integral to every program and project. In addition, DOE EM is implement­ing DOE Standard 1189 (DOE, 2008), which requires that safety-related documents and reviews be completed in the initial stages of the design process. DOE EM expects that integrating safety analyses up front in project design will avoid costly changes later (DOE, 2009).

Technology development is another key element of the cleanup program. The technology program is designed to provide a best-in-class science and engineering foundation and develop new technologies to reduce technical risk and uncertainty, support cleanup decisions, improve opera­tional efficiency, reduce costs, and accelerate schedules. In addition, laboratory — and pilot-scale testing is an important part of the technology maturation process.

The EM program has a strong commitment to reducing the technical risk of its programs and projects, and it is implementing two efforts to reduce those risks. This first is to conduct a Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) to reduce the risks of deployment of a new technology. TRAs provide a snapshot in time of the maturity of technologies and their readi­ness for inclusion in the project. The results of a TRA assist program and project managers in developing plans to mature the technologies and to make decisions related to technology insertion. Eleven TRAs had been completed by the end of 2012.

The second effort is to conduct an External Technical Review (ETR) as one of several steps to ensure timely resolution of engineering and technol­ogy issues. The results of the reviews serve as a basis for developing strate­gies for reducing identified technical risks, and providing technical information needed to support critical project decisions. Twenty-five ETRs had been completed by the end of 2012.

Adhering to sound project management practices is essential. This includes, but is not limited to, developing comprehensive plans with a clear end-state for the site, defining clear project scopes, identifying and assessing risks, conducting system analyses, conducting peer reviews, establishing firm performance objectives, and anticipating unexpected outcomes.

The cleanup program would not be nearly so successful without the full involvement of its stakeholders, who provide insights and advice on how best to implement and improve it. The program has citizen advisory boards chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act at eight cleanup sites. The DOE also supports working groups with the National Governors Asso­ciation, National Conference of State Legislators, Energy Communities Alliance representing local governments, and State and Tribal Government Working Group. The DOE also works closely with its federal and state regulators to ensure that cleanup is being conducted in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and compliance agreements, and in ways and according to schedules that protect public health and the environment (DOE, 2010). Continuous and transparent communication with stakehold­ers is vital.

The DOE’s cleanup mission poses unique, technically complex, and costly challenges, which can be achieved only through an exceptional workforce. The program’s 40,000 federal and contractor employees have the necessary skills and experience such that it is a world leader in the safe management and disposition of RAW and nuclear materials, as well as the remediation of contaminated facilities, soil, and groundwater (DOE, 2010).

In summary, the United States has extensive experience in cleanup of nuclear waste and facilities resulting from half a century of nuclear activities. The cleanup program has solved environmental problems that, at one time, seemed unsolvable; it will continue to make progress in solving the complex challenges it still faces (DOE, 2009).

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