JOHN F. AHEARNE, Lecturer in Public Policy, Duke University
ANDREW P. CAPUTO, Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council
EDWIN H. CLARK, President, Clean Sites, Inc.
DON CLAY, President, Don Clay Associates, Inc.
DOUGLAS M. COSTLE, Chairman and Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Sustainable Communities
JAMES R. CURTISS, Attorney, Winston & Strawn
FRANK L. PARKER, Distinguished Professor of Environmental and Water Resources Engineering, Vanderbilt University
VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Senior Consultant on Environmental Issues, Landers & Parsons
JOHN T. WHETTEN, Senior Applications Consultant, Motorola
Paul Gilman, Project Director
Deborah Stine, Project Coordinator
Patrick Sevcik, Project Assistant
In a letter to the President of the National Academy of Sciences, Thomas Grumbly, U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary of Environmental Management, requested the assistance of the Academy in addressing remedial action and waste management problems that his office and the nation are now facing as a result of 50 years of nuclear weapons development and testing (see Appendix A). These problems require a re-engineering of systems and a re-examination of the scientific, engineering, and institutional barriers to achieving cost-effective and safe stewardship of the Department's resources. In response to the request, the National Research Council of the Academy established the Committee to Evaluate the Science, Engineering, and Health Basis of the Department of Energy's Environmental Management Program. Four subcommittees were formed to address topics outlined in Mr. Grumbly's request. The subcommittees were assigned the following topics:
Evaluation of regulatory measures.
Setting priorities, timing, and staging.
Utilization of science, engineering, and technology.
Integration of science, engineering, and health in the implementation of the Environmental Management Program.
Each subcommittee held a workshop that was followed immediately by a meeting to develop a brief report. Information and discussions resulting from the workshops as well as background documents reviewed in preparation for the workshops informed the subcommittees' deliberations. The subcommittees' four reports were submitted to the synthesis subcommittee that was
formed to draw key points from each of them. This is the report of the synthesis subcommittee; the subcommittees' complete reports follow. Though the memberships of the subcommittees were selected to provide different viewpoints and experience there was surprising consensus among the subcommittees, though no attempt was made to conform the results of their separate deliberations. The reader should look to the different reports for further detail on the issues raised here and for additional recommendations and observations.
PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE DEPARTMENT'S LEGACY
The United States involvement in nuclear weapons development for the last 50 years has resulted in the development of a vast research, production, and testing network known as the nuclear weapons complex; over $300 billion (in 1995 dollars) has been invested in the activities of this complex. The Department has begun the environmental remediation of the complex, which will encompass radiological and nonradiological hazards, vast volumes of contaminated water and soil, and over 7,000 contaminated structures (DOE, 1995a). The Department must characterize, treat, and dispose of hazardous and radioactive wastes that have been accumulating for more than 50 years at 120 sites in 36 states and territories. By 1995, the Department had spent about $23 billion in identifying and characterizing its waste, managing it, and assessing the remediation necessary for its sites and facilities. The Department estimates that the remedial action at Department sites (not including groundwater cleanup, currently operating facilities and Naval facilities) could cost a total of $200–350 billion and take at least 75 years to complete (DOE, 1995b). According to the estimates of the total cost, 49% would go to waste management, 28% to environmental restoration, 10% to nuclear material and facility stabilization, and 5% to technology development with the remaining 8% for activities such as site security, transportation, and other landlord activities.
Environmental Management is also responsible for conducting the program for waste minimization and pollution prevention for the Department. The variety and volume of the Department's current activities make this effort a challenge itself. The Department has nearly 30 contractor operated laboratories employing about 50,000 people who are engaged in the full spectrum of scientific and engineering disciplines. Moreover, the Department is engaged in the largest weapons-dismantlement effort in its history. Current programmatic activities in nuclear weapons, energy, and basic research, as well as current remediation efforts are the subject of an initiative announced by Secretary O'Leary to reduce by 50% the amount of toxic waste that the Department's facilities produce by the year 1999 (DOE, 1995c).
The Department's Office of Environmental Management was established in 1989 to deal with the environmental legacy of the Department's nuclear
weapons program. The Environmental Management Program has six goals which have been established by Assistant Secretary Grumbly:
To eliminate and manage urgent risks in the system.
To emphasize the health and safety of workers and the public.
To establish a system that includes sound managerial and financial controls.
To demonstrate tangible results.
To focus technology development on identifying and overcoming obstacles to progress.
To establish a stronger partnership between the Department and its stakeholders.
The Department's historical culture of secrecy and its contamination problems at nuclear weapons sites have combined to affect public attitudes and public opinion in a profound way. Citizens have expressed concern at the community and national levels about the potential health and environmental impacts of conditions in the nuclear weapons complex, urging that sites be cleaned up. Technology to characterize and remediate contaminated soil or water or to treat, store, and dispose of accumulated waste safely does not always exist. For most sites, waste-disposal standards and goals for cleanup levels for the environment have not been developed, agreed to, or applied (OTA, 1991).
FUNDAMENTAL PRECEPTS FOR THE DEPARTMENT'S ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT PROGRAM
Several fundamental precepts about the Department's Environmental Management Program should be understood before one attempts to analyze the program in an informed manner.
Risk Associated with the Program
The contamination at the weapons complex is serious and extensive. The biggest risks are those to workers, and these risks arise from addressing contamination and waste problems and from managing the contamination or waste in place (OTA, 1991; Blush and Heitman, 1995; CERE, 1995). Examples of these significant worker risks include plutonium that is packaged in unstable forms, rooms that are heavily contaminated with plutonium and other radionuclides, and spent fuel that is corroding in cooling ponds.
Public health is at less immediate risk than is worker safety, largely because most waste and contamination is being managed and contained at present. There is still cause for real concern in this area, though, particularly over the medium to long-term. The current mechanisms for managing and
containing potential public health risks (such as controlling access to the site) will degrade long before the contamination becomes benign. Some contaminants have moved offsite (such as plutonium-contaminated soil at Rocky Flats) or are in the process of moving offsite (such as contaminated groundwater at Hanford moving toward the Columbia River). Because of a lack of agreed-upon cleanup standards, commitments made before problems were understood, and limited risk studies, in many cases it is not possible to separate truly hazardous conditions from those where contamination is measurable, but not a serious health risk. Nevertheless, this uncertainty must not be used as a rationale for not moving ahead aggressively with cleanup programs.
Cost of the Program
The magnitude of the cleanup job facing the Department is usually communicated by simply repeating the annual budget for the activity, $6.5 billion. The shocking fact about that amount is that fully $4 billion of it is spent simply to maintain facilities and sites in an attempt to contain contamination and to maintain old facilities for which funds for decommissioning are unavailable. The Department is running in place and spending $4 billion a year to do it, and this figure will grow if nothing is done to increase site remediation and facility decontamination and decommissioning.
Length of the Program
The expectation that the remediation process will continue for at least 75 years (DOE, 1995b) affects the approach to planning, managing, and technology selection and development. Stabilization of a site now and development of a better technology, instead of detailed characterization of the site, might be the better approach to an already-costly problem. Planning and technology development must be iterative because conditions will change and new developments that will need to be factored into the Department's decision-making will take place. Priorities will change as political leadership changes. All this will make the management of the Program a continuing challenge.
The long duration of remediation should not be interpreted as a mandate for inaction, but for management and technical approaches that will change over time.
Science and Technology in the Program
Many waste-management problems in the Department lend themselves to solutions that have already found application in the private sector. Many do not. In some circumstances, technologies and processes for safe and efficient
remediation or waste minimization do not exist. In other cases, the development of new technology and processes might substantially reduce the costs of, or risks associated with, remediation and waste management. An effective technology-development program focused on such opportunities is an essential element of an overall strategy for reducing the cost and speeding the pace of the Environmental Management Program.
In some cases, fundamental science questions will have to be addressed before a technology or process can be engineered. For example, improved understanding of the principles of pollutant transport in groundwater is required for important advancement in the development of groundwater-remediation technology. There is a need to involve more basic science researchers in the challenges of the Department's remediation effort. The formula is simple: Department research managers must fund long-term research programs with the most creative and innovative researchers, and the researchers must be kept involved with the “customers”—those who have the particular remediation or waste-minimization problems.
Environmental Mission or Environmental Ethic?
The Department spends more resources on its Environmental Management Program than on any other activity, and environmental management is often described as one of the Department's central missions. However, the Department should view its remedial activities as industry does, not as a central mission, but rather as a job that must be completed so that the Department can return to its more basic missions. Viewing it this way will help keep the focus of remediation activities on efficiency and cost effectiveness rather than on creating a self-perpetuating activity.
Waste minimization and pollution prevention should be embraced as integral to the performance of such missions as supporting long-term national security and science and technology development. US industry is refocusing and substantially broadening its vision of how to do its business in this manner, and the Department should do likewise (see also pp. 107-108, 154). For current products and processes, that means setting pollution-prevention goals and acknowledging that the most effective way to reach them is to make environmental criteria a part of experiment, process, and product designs.
ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT'S NOTABLE INITIATIVES
A number of initiatives are rapidly introducing change into a system that was established during the Cold War. It is too early to assess their effectiveness and how long they will last, but their principles and general direction are encouraging. In our recommendations, we note some of the improvements,
and we recognize that change will continue even during the final preparation of this report.
Research and Development Initiative
The Office of Energy Research and the Office of Environmental Management have made a commitment to create a new program designed to integrate a long-term research effort into the Environmental Management Program to make crucial advances. The Congress has allocated $50 million of the Environmental Management Program funding for this effort. Such collaboration is the kind of integration recommended in all the subcommittees' reports. Keys to the success of the effort include consistency of funding, a commitment from program managers in the Department to make it a truly new effort rather than a repackaging of existing programs, and a broad outreach to universities and industries and foreign researchers in partnership with the Department's National Laboratories (see also pp. 117–119, 121–122, 150–151). An example of this kind of an effort is the creation of the Consortium on Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP), which resulted from recommendations of an earlier National Research Council report (NRC, 1994).
Establishing a system that is managerially and financially in control is one of Environmental Management's stated goals. One example of how it is attempting to achieve that goal is the introduction of a contract-reform initiative. Several basic elements of the reform are increased competition; renewed focus on the protection of workers, the public, and the environment; a results-oriented focus; and performance-based incentives. In recent months, a performance-based integrated contract adopting the elements of the contract-reform initiative has been introduced and implemented at the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site. Some workshop participants emphasized that it is too early to predict the effectiveness of the new contract, but all subcommittees strongly supported the intentions and direction of the contract-reform effort (see also pp. 34–35, 79, 147–149). Key to the success of this effort will be a clear written statement by Department leadership of the desired relationship between Department employees and contractors.
One notable initiative has been the integration of risk and long-term cost data into budgeting. While we did not undertake a critical review of the technical elements of the report, the publication of Risks and the Risk Debate:
Searching for Common Ground, “The First Step” (DOE, 1995d) the broad intent of this effort is indeed an important first step for integrating risk assessment into budgeting. Current efforts to integrate options to reduce the cost of maintaining sites and facilities in a safe status while awaiting remediation, which will necessarily incorporate cost-benefit analysis, will further strengthen the analytical basis of Environmental Management's budgeting process. Environmental Management has correctly recognized that without stakeholder acceptance and consensus on both the process and the outcomes, improved analytical techniques and better factual information will be of less value (although such techniques and information can serve to inform the stakeholders in those decisions).
The Department has made a substantial effort to improve the participation of its many stakeholders in its deliberations and decision-making, and the Secretary has shown exemplary leadership in this regard (see also pp. 69–70, 155). The result is a perceptible improvement in the credibility of the Department and of Environmental Management (surveys of stakeholders taken in 1992 and 1994 and presented to the Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board on October 26, 1995, showed a statistically significant change in the level of trust in the Department 's Office of Environmental Management, p = 0.0003).
RESULTS NEEDED NOW
There are a number of common themes and observations throughout the four subcommittee reports. One is the observation that the Department has undertaken a long-term task. Nonetheless, there is a consensus among regulators, the Department, Congress, and the public that it is time to get on with the task of cleaning up the nuclear weapons complex. While there may be a consensus to get on with the task there is no real consensus as to what that means. For some it is meeting milestones in compliance agreements and for others it means remediating contaminated soil, groundwater, and buildings, even when the process chosen may take decades and many billions of dollars to complete regardless of what compliance agreement milestones may require. This committee believes getting on with the task, whichever definition one uses, will be accomplished most effectively by implementing a process for decision-making and accountability that includes
Having a more specific set of goals for the program (see also pp. 66–67, 108–112, 141–142).
A process for prioritizing tasks which includes among its tools risk assessment, (which should consider the perspectives and values of stakeholders as recommended in Building Consensus (NRC, 1994)) and cost-benefit analysis (see also pp. 44–45, 46, 82–83, 103–104, 110, 120–121, 144–145).
A peer-reviewed remediation and waste-minimization technology selection and development process that is responsive to the needs of those implementing the remediation (see also pp. 65, 104, 113, 116, 119, 121, 122).
An overall organizational and management structure which both provides an opportunity for stakeholder input in each of the above activities (see also pp. 69–70, 83, 113, 146–147, 155–157) and provides incentives for stakeholders and federal and contract workers to implement these activities of the Environmental Management Program successfully (see also pp. 113, 147–149).
The lack of appropriate technology or a permanent solution for remediating a polluted site or facility should not be an excuse not to take appropriate steps on a near-term or interim basis. Responsible stewardship means undertaking appropriate near-term or mid-term action to remediate a site to protect the public and the environment when a permanent solution is not at hand. Communities and states that are willing to make institutional commitments to implement such plans for near-term and mid-term remedies are participating in responsible stewardship. In the absence of permanent solutions, responsible stewardship allows progress to be made by providing adequate protection against environmental and human health risks that are serious and long-lived (see also pp. 40–41, 48). It deals with waste in relatively short increments of time, say, 20 years. After such a period, existing approaches should be re-examined, and society can decide what to do for the next 20 years. Until permanent solutions are developed, actions taken as part of responsible stewardship that are irreversible should be avoided.
An example at Hanford related to decisions about contamination along the Columbia River illustrates the idea of responsible stewardship. Stakeholders have placed a high priority on unrestricted access to lands along the river. They have also acknowledged that no solution for complete remediation of the underlying groundwater exists. Therefore, work has focused on the remediation of soils and on remediating and containing sources of groundwater contamination while the long-term goal of unrestricted use of the groundwater is retained.
Another example is the approach taken to management of transuranic waste at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. Recently, the Department has undertaken a major effort at consolidating, repackaging, monitoring, and sheltering its transuranic waste. Instead of being exposed to the effects of weather and the possibility of corrosion and leaks, drums containing transuranic waste are stored on concrete or asphalt pads in weather-resistant structures. Much of the waste had been stored in earth-covered drums, which were expected to be needed for only a few years, until a permanent disposal site became available. The Department is now repacking drums that began to corrode or leak and is building new interim storage facilities (DOE, 1995a).
It is important to underscore that responsible stewardship should not be relied on to provide permanent solutions. Some components in radioactive
waste can continue to be a threat to human health and safety for thousands of years. The National Research Council (NRC, 1995) concludes for high-level nuclear waste disposal that although it might be reasonable to assume that interim actions can be relied on for some initial period, there is no scientific basis for assuming the long-term effectiveness of institutional controls to protect against releases of the stored radioactive materials.
Many contaminated sites and facilities could be restored to a pristine condition suitable for any desired use; or they could be restored to a point where some uses (e.g., industrial development or recreation) would pose no health risks. In other cases, when permanent remedies are unavailable, surrounding communities could be protected for the near future by interim remedial actions and fencing off sites and facilities. Each of those options is associated with different costs and benefits. Land-use decisions are relevant to the determination of regulatory measures in that different cleanup-level goals might be set for different land-use options with little or no difference in the risks posed to human health (see also pp. 42–43, 111, 112).
The Department believes that most current efforts at land-use planning are inadequate, as are the mechanisms for their implementation. In cases bound by legal obligations or commitments by the Department, some obligations and commitments may not be technically feasible. In cases not bound by legal obligations or commitments by the Department, future land use is unclear. The Department has begun working with stakeholders and regulators regarding the ultimate disposition of lands currently managed by the Department (DOE, 1995b).
We believe that effects on land use and groundwater should be among the first considerations in the planning of remediation. There is also a need for a formal decision-making framework for future land-use and cleanup standards that will provide an opportunity for consensus-based selection of appropriate data, analysis, and criteria for decision-making. The framework must include an opportunity for stakeholder input at all stages and lead to enforceable agreements that can be modified as further knowledge is gained.
If land use restrictions are to be incorporated in cleanup remedies for Department sites there must be clear assurance that the land use will in fact be controlled for the duration of the contamination. This is a serious problem for sites contaminated with long-lived radionuclides. The record of decision selecting the remedy should incorporate specific commitments by the Department designed to maintain the necessary institutional controls over the lifetime of the contamination. Where contaminants are so long-lived that such commitments are impossible, the remedy should include specific procedures designed to reassess at regular intervals the adequacy of the institutional
controls and, where such reassessment detects problems, to either address the inadequacies or reopen the remedy.
The Department is extending the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)-based Environmental Protection Agency land-use directive (issued on May 25, 1995) to Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) corrective action so that reasonably anticipated future land use is identified early in the decision-making process on the basis of community input and factored into both risk assessment and remedy selection (E. Livingston-Behan, Department of Energy, personal communication, June 19, 1995).
INCENTIVES, METRICS, AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Like most federal agencies that do not face the market discipline that motivates private organizations, the Department and its contractors have only weak incentives for improved performance. Indeed, in a perverse way to the extent that budgets are allocated according to the magnitude and seriousness of the environmental problems faced by a site, liabilities become an asset. Likewise, with budgets tied to continuing containment and remediation processes, there is not as strong an incentive to complete projects as quickly as might be desired. Some even argue that the present structure of incentives rewards failure. An effort to improve incentives, metrics and accountability for federal employees and contractors would be the most effective way to improve the performance of the Environmental Management Program in meeting its goals, lowering its costs, and improving its safety in the short-term (see also pp. 147–149).
Disincentives within the Environmental Management Program must also be identified and eliminated so that environmental management goals and objectives can be reached. Internal operations and the integration of science, technology and engineering into the implementation of the goals of the Environmental Management Program are hampered by conflicting incentives that are unstated but understood by employees (see also pp. 74–75, 141–142). For instance, although instructed that projects need to be completed within specified periods, employees know from experience that the termination of a project can result in decreased funding for the program. Therefore, they might be led to preserve the program by failing to pursue means to accelerate the cleanup. It is necessary for the unstated goals to be recognized and incentives changed to support the stated goals of the organization; otherwise, employees will have conflicting incentives that undermine management objectives.
Another fundamental disincentive within the Department is that programmatic groups (e.g., those related to defense programs and fossil energy) do not budget for the management and disposal of the wastes that they generate
(see also p. 107–108). The Environmental Management Program provides the service and funding for their wastes. Having the various programs of the Department “pay” Environmental Management for the services would provide an incentive for the programmatic groups to minimize waste and use appropriate technology.
The poor incentive structure within the Department carried over to its major contracts until very recently. The Department is to be commended for moving toward performance-based contracts. More should and can be done. Well-defined, carefully negotiated performance contracts can be expected to be much more cost-effective than cost-plus contracts. That change in contract administration should move Environmental Management toward managing its contractors by measuring their performance against desired outcomes, rather than by micromanaging their daily activities (see also p. 103, 153–154). The cost of remediation at Department facilities should be compared with similar activities in private industry and at other government agencies, such as the Department of Defense, to elucidate those differences in management (e.g., the creation of incentives) and procurement that might improve the Department's performance if they were adopted. Training of Department employees will be necessary to give them the skills needed for this new approach to contractor relations, as will a clear statement by Department leadership as to their expectations of the nature of that relationship (see also p. 144).
Environmental Management has recently tried an experiment in “privatization” of the vitrification of high-level nuclear waste at Hanford (see also p. 153). The effort is intended to place greater emphasis on performance by having the contractor bear even greater financial risk in case of failure to meet deadlines and regulatory compliance and to reap rewards for superior performance. There may be reluctance on the part of some states and localities to place as much faith in this new management approach as the Department. For example, while supporting the use of private companies to run the vitrification operation at Hanford, the Washington Department of Ecology and the citizen's Hanford Advisory Board believe this new initiative is too prone to failure and have urged the Department to be prepared to go more slowly and build the plant with Federal funds. It is too early to tell who is correct and if the marketplace will finance private companies to undertake tasks such as the vitrification of wastes at Hanford. If the opposition to new approaches such as privatization is based on the pursuit of unstated goals like providing continued employment and funding for a site, mechanisms should be found to create incentives for states and other stakeholders to willingly participate in these new management approaches.
In general, the Department's Environmental Management Program should use private-sector models and privatization to meet its objective. However, the models must be carefully adapted to suit the public-sector mandates. For instance, if privatization is selected by Environmental Management to
accomplish its goals, the Department must recognize that it might have to supply mechanisms to encourage contractors to participate in this privatization, for example, guaranteeing a stream of revenue or allowing customers other than the Department to do business with the selected contractor. Environmental Management might have to create mechanisms to be responsive to the public, which might not release the government from responsibility for carrying out its mandates, regardless of contractual relationships. The Department should not lose sight of the fact that citizens will always hold it, not its contractors, as the party that bears the ultimate responsibility for its activities. That does not have to lead to micromanagement; it might require clearer performance standards or different contractual terms that do not depend on normal contractual remedies for breach of contract.
It is commonly said that civil-service regulations prohibit promotions in the absence of additional supervisory responsibilities and that it is difficult to remove people for poor performance and to reward people for good performance. It is possible to create a civil-service program that provides more incentives for performance (see also p. 148). Pilot programs of up to 5 years can be initiated by government agencies or other units. Environmental Management could implement a different promotion, reward, and firing pilot program. Programs could be modeled after successful industry and utility models. The use of teams for projects can supplement the normal organizational structure. The Department needs more technically knowledgeable people, including people trained in the field of public health, who are able to judge contractors' cost estimates within the context of the objectives set for the contract (see also p. 144). In industry, input by a multifunctional team consisting of a technical project leader, a lawyer, a finance manager, a corporate researcher, and government-relations, real-estate, and construction people starts at the beginning of a project and can continue through completion; the leadership of the team changes as needs change (see also p. 156). Teams are most effective if there has been training and awareness has been raised throughout the entire organization.
As the Department goes to more performance-based contracting, the lines of authority in the field will become blurred compared with the previous practice of cost-reimbursal contracting through field offices. All contracts let by Environmental Management should be administered by Environmental Management. Currently, there is a dysfunctional management loop in which goals are set by one manager (i.e., the Office of Waste Management which reports to the Under Secretary of Energy) and the responsibility for seeing that they are met rests in a different manager (i.e., the Associate Deputy Secretary for Field Management who reports to the Deputy Secretary) who has no direct input to the goal-setting process. Experience shows that control of all aspects of an operating contract under one line of management for its duration is much more effective than administration by multiple parallel
lines of management (see also pp. 139–141). Using performance contracts should require fewer Department personnel during the operating phase than are currently employed.
Key to achieving changes in the operation of the Department's Environmental Management Program will be clear leadership from the Secretary. Secretary O'Leary has demonstrated leadership in taking actions to improve stakeholder involvement in the Program. She needs to continue that leadership and actively participate in the fundamental activities related to goal setting and improving the Department' s performance as a regulated entity. She must also empower Department staff making cross-program decisions, and take a visible leadership role in decisions that require coordination with other departments, interagency forums, or the President.
GOALS AND PRIORITIES
Establishing a System for Setting Priorities
Any priority-setting system and its attendant tools must be placed in an overall organizational framework to be effective.
Congress usually specifies the mission for an agency in the legislation that define its programs and activities. In the case of the Department it has several missions as previously discussed and environmental management is integral to them all.
The vision provided by senior managers within the Administration and the Agency gives the agency, its staff, and the public an integrated look at the organization's future state. What does the agency want to accomplish? How does it want to view itself? How does it want the public to view it?
The goals are more specific targets for components within the vision, i.e., what specifically is the organization trying to achieve in the short and long term? For example, is Environmental Management trying to maximize the amount of Departmental land that will be available for public use? Is Environmental Management trying to contain waste/contamination and restrict land use to the maximum possible extent to minimize costs? Is Environmental Management going to have a comprehensive technology development program to reduce costs for waste management and environmental restoration activities? Goals are usually set after a dialogue between senior managers of an Agency who have helped formulate the vision and these within the agency who will have direct operational responsibility for accomplishing the goals. In the case of the Environmental Management Program the inclusion of stakeholders in this dialogue is essential.
Objectives are a series of more specific, short term, and quantifiable measures of accomplishment in pursuit of the agency's goals, missions, and vision. Goals may pertain to many facilities or activities, objectives will
often pertain to single facilities or activities. Objectives provide answers to questions such as: What parts of each installation will be cleaned up with the intent of release to public use? What types of wastes will be accepted for storage or treatment at each installation? What will be the role of repositories as part of the long-range management of risks? Where will they be sited, what volumes of waste will they be able to accommodate, and in what order will they be received? What areas of the current complex will retain long-term access restrictions? What types of risks will be managed through long-term Department stewardship rather than complete remediation? Objectives are often set after a dialogue between managers of operations at specific Department sites and those who are responsible for achieving the goals. Again, the inclusion of local stakeholders in this process is critical to its success.
These are the main components of a coherent priority-setting system. However, their definition, no matter how rigorously accomplished, will not ensure that the system is effective or useful. This will require that at least as much attention be given to the following steps which are discussed in more detail under the section on implementation below.
The success of a priority-setting system ultimately depends upon how well it is actually implemented. For example, will the vision be achieved by Environmental Management dismantling all or selected Department production facilities? Should Environmental Management establish regional waste repositories for ultimate disposal of certain wastes? Should Environmental Management target technology development activities at the most costly and/or longer-term needs?
The Department needs to develop performance standards and metrics to measure as quantitatively as possible its performance and progress. How well does the organization perform and are its activities leading it to its goals? For example, what volume of waste material has been moved to a regional repository? What volume of waste has been adequately characterized? What cleanup levels have been established for contaminated materials on public lands? What is the quantity of land area available for public use? What is the level of potential exposure to Environmental Management's wastes?
The data on the extent of contamination that has been characterized to date are incomplete. Weighting factors are subjectively selected. Calculated probabilities and consequences are of limited defensibility. But none of these facts should be allowed to deter Environmental Management from the obligation to make decisions based on the knowledge, data and evidence at hand. The system should identify these limitations overtly. The presumption is that stakeholders will be receptive to such limitations and act on behalf of the national good.
Need for More-Specific Goals
The Environmental Management Program appears to understand its mission, and this is becoming apparent to the outside world. The Department needs
to set specific goals as it asserts leadership in creating the environment to reach those goals. These goals include target cleanup levels, magnitudes of occupational risk to be tolerated, end uses of former Department facilities, and the role of repositories in the overall program. Processes already under way are intended to set many of the needed goals. However, these processes for establishing goals must be resolved as a precondition to developing a coherent approach to cleanup. This approach should allow priorities to be set, allow an effective cost-management culture to evolve, and allow decentralization of risk-management decisions back to the individual sites, where existing knowledge is sufficient to support sound decisions. Only when the Department is able to set clear and substantive goals unequivocally will it be able to spend money wisely to manage risks to workers, the public, and the environment and to instill confidence in the public and Congress. However, as further information is developed it may be that some of the goals are unattainable at a cost, risk, or social impact that society is willing to tolerate.
Some goals of the Environmental Management Program are unstated and sometimes conflict with stated goals. That has complicated and slowed the Department's efforts to achieve its long-term objectives for reducing risks for the public, workers, and the environment. For example, the stated goal of the Hanford cleanup is to reduce risk at the site in a timely and efficient manner. However, an unstated goal (except in casual conversation) is to provide continued employment and funding for the site. Organizational structures and decision-making by contractors and Environmental Management employees that would accelerate remediation or reduce the number of people required to carry it out might result in reduced employment or funding. Under the current system, states and local governments want to see rapid action toward achieving safer sites and safer operation, but they also want maximal employment at the Department's sites. Similarly, labor unions and contractors perceive a parochial benefit from larger and slower programs.
Attributes of a Priority-Setting System
A priority-setting system for Environmental Management should have the following attributes:
Consistency. To be successful, the system must be used for a number of years. If it is good, future administrations will accept it; if not, it will be discarded. Congress has a key role in allowing the system to have some permanence. Different levels of funding will dictate different strategies for cleanup, which in turn can affect costs. For example, a budget that allows only containment and facility maintenance necessarily permits only urgent risks to be addressed. Projects that are expensive but smaller risks must
continue in the Department inventory until urgent risks (some of which, like the Hanford high-level nuclear waste-tanks, will take considerable time to address) are resolved. The cost of monitoring and maintaining the less-risky sites remains high. At some higher level of funding, the strategy could change to include an aggressive effort to reduce these costs by removing lower-risk sites from the Department inventory as quickly as possible while the most-serious imminent risks continue to be addressed. The longer-term costs might be substantially reduced. If there is no predictability in funding, there can be no priority-setting system that implements a long-term strategy aimed at the highest possible cost-effectiveness.
Coherence throughout the Department's complex. The priority-setting system must be coherent by being functional across the various Department sites and throughout the various elements of the Environmental Management Program. For example, the system must function in setting priorities within the portfolio of facilities that need decontamination and decommissioning just as it must function in determining whether the consolidation of storage sites for plutonium should have higher priority than decontamination and decommissioning of those facilities.
Feedback for evolutionary system. The use of priority-setting tools within the priority-setting system (e.g., the Environmental Restoration Priority-Setting System and the Laboratory Integration and Prioritization System) should be evaluated regularly. Environmental Management generally needs to do more ex post analysis to improve its decision-making. Such processes encourage accountability of the Department's managers and contractors.
Clarity and transparency. The goals and workings of the process should be clear to all participants and encourage the exchange of concerns to foster common conclusions. The methodology to quantify funding decisions must not have a hidden agenda.
Participation of stakeholders. The legacy of low public trust and credibility of the Department was based, in the past, on the need for secrecy in some programs. The Secretary has taken steps to involve people affected by the Department 's actions in the decision-making process. That has been successful and should be continued formally. Although stakeholders do not have authority to determine funding, they should participate in and understand the basis of funding decisions. The inclusion of Indian Nation, state, and local stakeholders in this process for fiscal 1997 is laudable.
Risk Assessment and Cost-Benefit Analysis
We recognize that Environmental Management, in response to a Congressional request, recently produced a preliminary evaluation of the risk of the many activities and facilities in the Environmental Management complex (DOE, 1995d). However, as its title suggests, this is only a first step.
Environmental Management should continue to develop a risk-based approach by having risk assessment done as one of the major activities under the Environmental Management umbrella. That is especially useful when priorities must be set and decisions about worker, public, and environmental health must be balanced against each other and against costs. The process should be open so that the results will be understood by both the Department and stakeholders. It should undergo extensive peer review by outside panels. The assessments, which will take several iterations to perfect, should compare the risks at the several major sites to enable prudent allocation of resources and to decide which sites should be approached first (NRC, 1994).
Ultimately, the process should be able to identify the locations and situations that pose the most serious risks to the public, to workers at Department sites, and to the environment. Imminent risks should have the highest priority for action. For nonimminent risks, risk assessment should identify the benefits of risk reduction as part of overall cost-benefit analyses, which should form the basis for further priority-setting and resolution of contamination problems that must be addressed as required by law or compliance agreements.
A cautionary note on the use of risk assessment, cost-benefit analysis, and other tools used in priority-setting is necessary. These tools are just that, tools for the manager and stakeholders to use in the decision-making process. They are only as good as the information that is used in performing the analysis and ultimately, there are many factors which might affect the decision-maker outside of these data-driven tools.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Science and technology play key roles in virtually all activities of Environmental Management. They help to determine priorities for site cleanup by providing a basis for sound risk assessments and provide the tools for reaching remediation goals and priorities and ensuring that actions of the Department are the best that can be done. For environmental management problems that lack good solutions, Environmental Management needs an effective way to bring Department and other scientific and technical resources to bear. The Department must dramatically improve its research and technology-development outreach. That can be accomplished only by widely opening the Department 's research and development program to all qualified professionals and organizations, regardless of type or location (including international expertise). Concomitantly with opening the Environmental Management R&D procurement system, a broad-based system of external peer review must be carefully implemented and monitored to ensure that the best proposals are selected.
Environmental Management has designated five priority or Focus Areas for technology development. The purpose of the focused approach is to bring together users and developers to decrease cost, decrease risk, and develop ways to do what cannot be done today. In addition, a number of cross-cutting or common subjects have been identified by the Department for special attention: characterization, monitoring, and sensors; efficient separation and processing; robotics; and technology transfer.
Keys to the success of the Department's technology development process are that it be intimately linked with identified customer needs (i.e., the site-specific application of the technology) and that it use quantitative tools, such as risk analysis and cost-benefit analysis. The process of technology selection must also be iterative so that technologies under development reflect recent advances. The committee believes that the Focus Areas that have been defined provide an appropriate structure for using these approaches. However, we are concerned that implementation of the focus approach has fallen short of the intended mark primarily because users, researchers, and developers have not yet been fully integrated into the decision-making process for selecting new technologies. We recommend that steps be taken to ensure that user involvement in the focus approach is substantial enough (and has sufficient expertise) to affect the early selection and continued refinement of technologies for development.
National Laboratories, Universities, and Industry: Partnerships and Competition
The decision as to whether National Laboratories, universities, or industry should take the lead in a basic-research effort or in the development of any particular technology should be based on a competitive process that undergoes external review, not on formula or some other form of entitlement. Teaming together and partnering these different groups is often the most-effective approach.
National Laboratories constitute an extraordinary technical resource both in capability and in size. It must be recognized, however, that the Laboratories are unique in culture and expertise (especially with nuclear materials), which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage in bringing new technologies and science to bear in Environmental Management's activities. There must be strong external benchmarking and extensive peer review of research and technology-development efforts in the National Laboratories. The Laboratories must also be open to procurement of outside capabilities even when the main body of the R&D takes place inside. As with all participants in the technology-development effort, the Laboratories should structure efforts to be responsive to the technology needs of customers.
Experience has demonstrated time and time again that the National Laboratories are most effective at producing technologies that have potential for commercialization if they are linked to industry at the earliest possible time. The idea is for industry to provide “technology pull” that can guide the R&D so that the product meets customer requirements and there are no surprises when the technology is turned over to industry for commercialization.
The Department is subject to external regulation and in some particulars is self-regulating (see also p. 34). There is an inherent tension (many would say a conflict of interest) between meeting primary mission requirements (e.g., dismantlement of the nuclear weapons arsenal) and ensuring adequate protection of worker safety, public safety, and environmental concerns. Because of that tension, regulatory systems in which the entities regulate themselves lack credibility. Given the magnitude of the risks associated with manufacturing and in maintaining and dismantling the nuclear weapons stockpile, effective and credible external regulatory programs are necessary. We believe that the Department 's self-regulation of its nuclear-related activities should be eliminated. We are not prepared to recommend an appropriate successor agency for the Department's current regulatory roles, but clearly one would be needed. This Subcommittee is aware that any transition from self-regulation to external regulation will be difficult in view of the very specialized and complicated issues which the Department faces. This transition should be done cautiously and carefully.
Overcoming Regulatory “Obstacles”—Using Existing Flexibility
In a number of instances in which the Department and its contractors cite regulatory restrictions as prohibiting common sense and safe solutions to their problems, there is usually some form of regulatory flexibility that has not been applied. The Department should increase the use of the flexibility that is available in the regulations (see also pp. 35, 111–112). Obtaining variances, waivers, or their functional equivalents in threshold standards, treatment requirements, and groundwater monitoring are examples of such flexibility. Industry often works with regulators to find mutually acceptable compromises in the face of regulatory restrictions. The Department should encourage Environmental Management and its contractors to use the available flexibility. The focus of the Department and its employees should be on achieving long-term goals, not on meeting the detailed schedules of current compliance agreements where they are in conflict with these goals. In cases
where these conflicts arise and remediation is impeded, the Department should seek to renegotiate the compliance agreement.
Streamlining Regulatory Measures
The current regulatory system is a confusing patchwork assembled, at least in part, with weapons production in mind (see also p. 47). A number of potential problems are caused when the authorities of multiple regulators, such as states, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, and the Environmental Protection Agency (and sometimes the Department), for cleanup of a given site or operable unit overlap. The problems include the following:
When there is lack of agreement among multiple regulators, regulatory compliance is slowed to attain a consistent decision.
Additional resources are expended in coordination.
Differences between the objectives of multiple regulations inhibit priority-setting.
If more than one regulatory entity, including state and federal agencies, has jurisdiction over a Department site, a lead regulator should be designated for a cleanup activity or group of cleanup activities and every effort should be made to have as few different regulators at a site as possible (see also pp. 37–39). The lead regulator should oversee all day-to-day compliance or cleanup actions and decisions and should resolve disputes. Other regulators on a site should recognize and defer to the authority of the lead agency. The mechanism for achieving this goal could be its incorporation into existing compliance agreements.
Other measures that would streamline the regulatory process for Environmental Management include
Early involvement between the Department, its regulators, and other stakeholders in scoping out projects and budgets for compliance agreements.
Permission for site cleanups to occur under RCRA closure or corrective action in lieu of CERCLA where both RCRA and CERCLA are applicable.
Encouragement of use of the “one document” approach to satisfy RCRA and CERCLA.
The functional equivalence of RCRA to NEPA where RCRA applies, as NEPA and CERCLA have been integrated to be functionally equivalent where CERCLA fulfills NEPA.
Cross training of regulatory Department, and contractor personnel in applicable laws.
Delegation of CERCLA to states. There are a number of approaches as
to how this could be done. States could be mandated to require exactly what is currently required of those regulated by the federal regulators with jurisdiction over CERCLA or states could be permitted to have more stringent requirements than current federal regulations.
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION: SEARCHING FOR CONSENSUS TO ACHIEVE CREDIBILITY
A Department decision that is supported by sound scientific and technical understanding will not necessarily lead to a successful result. High-quality scientific and technical information is of little value in decision-making if it is not understood and accepted by stakeholders. The challenge for Environmental Management managers is to bring together a variety of factors into a well-balanced, implementable decision. The call for all Departmental efforts to be open and transparent to stakeholders recurred throughout the work of this committee's four subcommittees. Whether the issue is the decision process for technology selection or the performance of a risk assessment for remedialaction options, involving stakeholders is crucial for creating workable consensus. The Department operates in a political environment in which citizen support is essential to avoid costly and protracted litigation or similar consequences. Consensus is the key to credibility in this political environment. Without credibility, little will be accomplished by Environmental Management in reaching its vision or in completing its mission.
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DOE (U.S. Department of Energy). 1995a. Closing the Circle on the Splitting of the Atom: The Environmental Legacy of Nuclear Weapons Production in the United States and What the Department of Energy is Doing About It. The U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Management, Office of Strategic Planning and Analysis (EM-4), Washington, D.C.
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