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Environmental Sustainability Division

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Support to Development of the National Environmental and Waste Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement


To assess the cost of remediation and decommissioning of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) legacy waste sites and facilities, respectively, under a variety of alternatives. With the end of the cold war, DOE was left with thousands of contaminated waste sites and inactive facilities no longer deemed needed by the U.S. government. At that time, DOE decided to consolidate its environmental restoration and waste management facilities into a single organization to more efficiently manage this legacy. U.S. Department of Energy subsequently initiated the development of a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) on the proposed integrated environmental restoration and waste management program. The principal focus of the PEIS process was the evaluation of 1) strategies for conducting remediation of U.S. Department of Energy sites and facilities to ensure the protection of human health and the environment and 2) potential configurations for waste management facilities that will be needed to treat, store and dispose of DOE wastes.

The specific scope of PNNL's contribution to this PEIS was to 1) compile physical and contamination characteristics data on over 10,000 contaminated sites and facilities located throughout the DOE complex and 2) perform a remedial engineering analysis of all DOE legacy contaminated sites and facilities. The objective of the analysis was to quantify the magnitude of DOE's environmental and waste management responsibilities in terms of cost, labor requirements, technology requirements and generated waste volumes.


An extensive database of contaminated waste sites and inactive nuclear facilities was developed containing for each site/facility physical characteristics data, inventories and concentrations of chemical and radionuclide contaminants, latitude and longitude and background information. These data were linked with a geographic information system to provide easy and rapid access to the data and powerful visualization of the data. A methodology was developed to perform a high-level remedial analysis of each site and facility based on the type and extent of contamination present, the location and type of site or facility, the best available remediation technology and the land-use scenario being considered. A software tool, the Automated Remedial Assessment Methodology, was developed that used the waste sites and facility database as input data and allowed rapid, consistent and reproducible remedial assessment results for each of the thousands of contaminated sites and facilities.

Unit risk factors were also developed and incorporated into the analysis methodology. Remedial analysis results included estimates of the cost of waste site remedial action and facility decommissioning, residual risk to the public, occupational risk, risk from transportation of wastes, land area affected by remedial actions and ecological impacts from remediation activities. A composite effects analysis at the end of the simulation provided for a direct comparison of alternative land-uses and remediation assumptions.


The results of the analysis were widely varying environmental impacts depending upon the land-use and remediation scenario. The composite analysis showed that remediation costs would exceed $500 billion, and waste volumes generated from remediation would exceed 60 million m3 assuming aggressive remediation of all contaminated sites and facilities. The greatest value of the results, however, was the insight obtained on the types of sites and facilities having the greatest environmental and cost impact, the limitations of the best available technology of that time period and the sensitivity of impacts to different land-use and remediation assumptions.

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