SREL Reprint #2728




Avoiding Destructive Remediation at DOE Sites

F. W. Whicker1, T. G. Hinton2, M. M. MacDonell3, J. E. Pinder III1, and L. J. Habegger3

1Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, Colorado State University,
Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
2University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Aiken, SC 29802, USA
3Environmental Assessment Division, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL 60439, USA

Introduction: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its predecessor agencies pioneered atomic weapons, nuclear energy, and peaceful uses of radioisotopes, but operating practices that began half a century ago left a legacy of environmental contamination at more than 100 sites in 30 states covering 2 million acres. In 2002, a critical review of DOE's Environmental Management Program concluded that the cleanup program for the nuclear weapons complex could cost more than $300 billion, and that more than $60 billion had already been spent without a corresponding reduction in actual risk. The environmental cleanup program generally involves excavation, transport and disposal of soil, pumping and treating of groundwater, and other engineering and technological measures.
For highly concentrated radioactive and chemical wastes confined to engineered structures (tanks, vaults, etc.) and much less concentrated but still clearly dangerous wastes in landfills, trenches, basins, etc., the need for active control or cleanup is obvious. Less obvious is how to deal with the measurable but far lower levels of contamination dispersed over large volumes of soil and water, for which engineered cleanup can cost billions and cause significant environmental damage. . .

SREL Reprint #2728

Whicker, F. W., T. G. Hinton, M. M. MacDonell, J. E. Pinder, III, and L. J. Habegger. 2004. Avoiding destructive remediation at DOE sites. Science 303:1615-1616.

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