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Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program (1995)

Chapter:Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology

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Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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Part IV

Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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SUBCOMMITTEE ON UTILIZATION OF SCIENCE, ENGINEERING, AND TECHNOLOGY

FRANK L. PARKER (Chair), Distinguished Professor of Environmental and Water Resources Engineering, Vanderbilt University

JOHN F. AHEARNE, Lecturer in Public Policy, Duke University

CHARLES B. ANDREWS, Vice President, S.S. Papadopulos & Associates, Inc.

EDGAR BERKEY, President, National Environmental Technology Applications Center, University of Pittsburgh Applied Research Center

HAROLD K. FORSEN, Senior Vice President (retired), Bechtel Hanford, Inc.

WALTER W. KOVALICK, Director, Technology Innovation Office, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

MICHAEL L. MASTRACCI, Director, Innovative Technology Programs, TECHMATICS, Inc.

PHILIP A. PALMER, Senior Consultant, DuPont Specialty Chemicals, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company

REBECCA T. PARKIN, Director of Scientific, Professional, and Section Affairs, American Public Health Administration

ALFRED SCHNEIDER, Professor of Nuclear Engineering (retired), Georgia Institute of Technology

CHRISTINE A. SHOEMAKER, Professor, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University

C. HERB WARD, Foyt Family Chair of Engineering and Director, Energy and Environmental Systems Institute, Rice University

JOHN T. WHETTEN, Senior Applications Consultant, Motorola

RAYMOND G. WYMER, Consultant, Chemical Technology Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Staff

Stephen Parker, Associate Executive Director

Karyanil Thomas, Senior Program Officer

Anita Hall, Administrative Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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Introduction

This is the report of the Subcommittee on the Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology. Biographical information on the members is provided in Appendix B. This subcommittee examined how the Office of Environmental Management 's (EM) technology-development efforts could best utilize science, engineering, and knowledge of the health consequences of contaminated Department of Energy sites.

The subcommittee met on July 11–14, 1995. In a workshop format, the subcommittee heard presentations from representatives of Department headquarters, Department sites, contractors at Department sites, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters, citizen groups, environmental advocacy groups, and industries engaged in large environmental remediation efforts. The workshop agenda and list of participants are included in Appendixes B and D, respectively.

A roundtable discussion was held after the formal presentations to explore some of the relevant issues. The participants identified what they considered to be the most important matters that need to be addressed, and the subcommittee used the results of the roundtable discussion and contents of the presentations, as well as the experience of the participants, to develop a framework for this report.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS FACING THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

US involvement in the nuclear arms race for 50 years resulted in the development of a vast research, production, and testing network that has

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

come to be known as the nuclear weapons complex. Over $300 billion (in 1995 dollars) has been invested in the activities of this complex. Today, the Department is faced with the largest environmental remediation task in the federal government. Remediation will entail radiation hazards, vast volumes of contaminated water and soil, and over 7,000 contaminated structures (DOE, 1995a). DOE must characterize, treat, and dispose of hazardous and radioactive wastes that have been accumulating for some 50 years at 120 sites in 36 states and territories. Over the last 5 years, the Department has spent more than $25 billion in identifying, characterizing, and managing its waste and in assessing the nature of the remediation necessary for its sites and facilities. The Department estimates that remediation could cost a total of $200 –350 billion and take 75 years to complete (DOE, 1995b). This does not include the cost of cleaning most contaminated ground waters or currently active facilities.

EM is also responsible for conducting waste minimization and pollution prevention for all of the Department of Energy. The variety and volume of the Department's activities make that effort a challenge in its own right. The Department has nearly 30 laboratories that employ 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. Those activities and current remediation efforts are subject to an effort announced by Secretary O'Leary to reduce the amount of toxic waste that the Department's facilities produce by 50% by 1999 (DOE, 1995c).

PROBLEMS IN CORRECTING THE LEGACY

EM was established in 1989 to deal with the environmental legacy of the nuclear arms race. The EM Program has six goals:

  • To eliminate and manage urgent risks in the system.

  • To emphasize health and safety for workers and the public.

  • To establish a system that is managerially and financially in control.

  • 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 profoundly affected public attitudes and opinions. Citizens have expressed concern at the community and national levels about both the potential health and environmental impacts of conditions within the DOE complex, urging that sites be cleaned up. Technology to characterize and remediate contaminated soil or water or to treat, store, and

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

dispose of accumulated waste safely is not necessarily available. Waste-disposal standards and cleanup goals for the environment have not been developed, agreed to, or applied at each site (EPA, 1995; OTA, 1991).

Technology development is one element of the EM Program. It includes research and development of new environmental technologies whose use is intended to make Department operations and remediation “better, faster, cheaper, safer, and in compliance with existing regulatory requirements” (DOE, 1995c). EM has estimated that technology development could save 10–22% in costs of remediation, treatment, and disposal, depending on the amount of cleanup performed (DOE, 1995b), and EM 's Office of Technology Development estimates a savings of at least $10 billion. For fiscal year 1995, technology development accounted for 6.5% of the Department's EM budget (waste management and treatment and facility stabilization and decommissioning accounted for 66.0%, and environmental restoration accounted for 27.5%).

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

Findings and Recommendations

This section provides a summary of the findings and recommendations that the subcommittee came to during its deliberations. The first subsection contains general observations about the Environmental Management Program and sets the context for the specifics regarding the use of science, engineering, and technology in the program.

GENERAL GUIDANCE
  • We recommend a life-cycle approach in which environmental consideration is given to all processes and products, with a goal of eliminating or drastically reducing waste streams at every stage of the activity. This should apply to both mission activities of the Department and all elements of the Department's environmental remediation efforts, which consist essentially of site characterization, remediation, waste management, and waste disposal. Implementation will require the creation of incentives and the removal of disincentives. For example, programmatic groups within the Department should use their own operational funds to pay EM for the management and disposal of the wastes that they generate, rather than use the current system whereby EM provides the service and the funding. That would provide a definite incentive for programmatic groups to minimize waste and to use appropriate technology.

  • Goals specific enough to be used for decision-making (which incorporates such tools as risk-based and cost-benefit analysis) should be established for remediation. The goals should be developed with stakeholder input. They

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

should provide clear end points for risk-based cleanup for various land-use options, levels of long-term maintenance and monitoring, and schedules for accomplishing tasks based on difficulty. These goals should be set first at the national level with a clearly identified process that can be used to develop site-specific goals that will be within the limits of the national goals.

  • Without knowledge of proposed land use and cleanup levels, the identification and implementation of appropriate technology for remediation is not possible. The emphasis that the Department has placed on these goals for future land-use plans and cleanup levels with stakeholder input is commendable. Although there is more to be done in this regard, failure to resolve these points completely should not be a barrier to continuing remediation activity. A possible way to overcome this barrier until these land-use and cleanup level goals are established is to use existing models, such as the Multimedia Environmental Pollutants Assessment System (MEPAS) and Argonne National Laboratory's RESRAD, to estimate the risks associated with the present system, the technology that will reduce the risks, and the cost to reach a socially acceptable solution.

  • Planning and technology development must be iterative to take into account changing conditions and new developments in the light of the expectation that the remediation process will continue for at least 75 years and that needs and funding will change. That expectation should not be interpreted as a mandate for inaction.

  • EM has vastly improved the working relationship between its site managers and stakeholders in the surrounding communities. It could make further progress by establishing incentives for Department officials and communities to make planning decisions that would result in more cost-effective and timely actions.

  • Site actions must be consistent with state and federal laws; with compliance agreements among the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and the states; with the wishes of citizen advisory groups; and with resource limitations. Guidelines and limitations can be in conflict with each other or be unrealistic. The system has become overconstrained. To achieve consistency, the Department should attempt, as industry does, to take advantage of flexibility in laws and compliance agreements. However, industry does not have as many constraints as the Department (e.g., in the form of site-specific advisory boards and compliance agreements), and for the Department, relief might require legislation.

  • The Department should manage its contractors by focusing on seeing that the outcomes desired are reached (i.e., performance goals). It should not manage the day-to-day activities performed by contractors in reaching those goals.

  • The Department has taken preliminary steps in the creation of a Department-wide uniform process to evaluate risks to the environment and to health

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

with the publication of Risks and the Risk Debate: Searching for Common Ground (DOE, 1995d). The subcommittee did not review the report and cannot endorse its specific methodology or accuracy. Ultimately, the process should be able to identify the locations and situations across all DOE sites that pose the most serious imminent risks to the public, to workers at Department sites, and to the environment. Imminent risks to the environment and to public and worker health should have the highest priority for action. For nonimminent risks, risk assessment should be used to identify the benefits of risk reduction as part of overall cost-benefit analyses, which should form the basis for further priority-setting and for the timely resolution of contamination problems that must be addressed as required by law or compliance agreements.

TECHNOLOGY SELECTION AND DEVELOPMENT
  • An explicit, comprehensive approach is needed to identify technology needs, select candidate technologies, and pursue their development. A key to the success of this process is that it be intimately linked with identified customer needs (i.e., site-specific application) and that it use quantitative tools, such as risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis. The process of technology selection must be iterative so that technologies under development reflect recent advances. The Department has made substantial efforts toward establishing such a comprehensive approach by the establishment of its focus areas for technology development. We support the further refinement of this framework and its decision-making processes. The Department should be vigilant in ensuring programwide and facilitywide implementation of this approach.

  • The Department must dramatically improve its research and technology development outreach. That can be accomplished only by opening the Department's research and development program to all qualified individuals and organizations regardless of type or location. Concomitantly with the opening of the EM 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.

  • Technology selection should incorporate a knowledgeable independent review group that has no vested interests in the outcome and that includes people from outside the Department who work in the commercial use of technologies.

  • At the time of selection and throughout technology development, care should be taken that the products of technology development can be modified for similar applications throughout the Department complex. To the extent that technologies under development have the potential for use at a level that could support commercial development, the Department should become

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

an early partner of commercial companies to encourage the development of the technologies by the private sector.

  • Incentives should be provided for the development of technologies that reduce waste generation, that lower costs of remediation, or that improve safety.

  • The Department must link technology development to technology demonstration and utilization programs. At all stages of the process, efforts should be made to inform potential users of the existence and performance of newly developed technology.

  • The technology-development process proposed by the Department includes multiple points of analysis and evaluation (gates) where further development must be justified. Analysis should include quantitative tools, such as risk analysis and cost-benefit analysis (to degrees of detail that depend on the stage of technology development).3 Such analyses must be benchmarked against available technologies, technologies under development in the Department, and technologies available in the broader commercial sector.

  • There has not been a strong relationship between technology development and basic research. Technology development (already strongly influenced by technology users) must be strongly coupled to research and development at both the basic and the applied levels. The Department has recently begun efforts to improve this relationship (between the Office of Energy Research and Environmental Management) and it should continue to make this relationship a strong interactive one whereby technology-development needs can influence how basic-research budgets are allocated and vice versa. As in the case of technology development, basic research should be performed by the most appropriate institution as determined by competitive peer review.

  • The decision as to whether National Laboratories, universities, or industry should take the lead in the development of any particular technology should be based on a competitive process that undergoes external review, not by formula or some other form of entitlement. Often, forming teams or partners among the different groups for the development of a particular technology is 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 in the case of nuclear materials); this can be both an advantage and a disadvantage in bringing new technologies to bear in restoration activities. There must be strong external benchmarking

    3  

    In cost-benefit analysis, costs should include both life-cycle costs and short-term costs. Life-cycle cost is an estimate of the full cost of implementing a technology over its expected life according to a discounted present-value analysis that uses various interest rates (including 0%). Benefits can include some of the following: decreasing risk of contamination for a population, increasing reliability of the method to contain pollution or to remediate, decreasing production of secondary waste, increasing safety of workers in the EM Program, and developing methods that might have wide use or commercial value.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

and peer review within National Laboratories. The Laboratories must be open to procurement of outside capabilities even when the main body of the R&D fits within the Laboratories.

  • As with all participants in technology development, the Laboratories should structure their efforts to be responsive to the technology customers.

  • Many of the Department's waste-management issues are not peculiar to the Department—they are issues that are faced by private industries and by the Department of Defense as well. The Department should use fully the expertise and talent available in universities, industry, and other federal agencies. The role of industry and universities should have several elements: as sources of peer review, as collaborators in technology development, and as primary participants in technology development.

TECHNOLOGY UTILIZATION
  • During testing and demonstration on a federal facility, the Department should indemnify a technology developer against an unplanned contamination of the environment, but not against failure to properly perform the work. Site operators and the local stakeholders who have taken risks in deciding to utilize innovative technology should be rewarded, not penalized, if a technology fails.

  • All procurement approaches for developed technology must include provisions for testing and validation of technologies in the context of constraints of actual problems. The possibility of some degree of failure to meet target criteria or goals of well-conceived projects must be accommodated without excessive penalties.

  • A group of competent, trained and experienced scientists, engineers, technicians, and support personnel must be maintained at Department sites to be able to judge the viability and facilitate the introduction of innovative technologies. It is essential in ensuring the successful introduction and utilization of technologies.

  • In most cases, the site operating contractor must retain the responsibility of final approval for the use of proposed technology to the extent that it must ensure the health and safety of people both on the site and in the community around the sites and ensure preservation of the investment in the site.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

Policy

The subcommittee believes that several issues must be addressed by DOE if it is to use scientific and engineering information successfully in its EM Program. It must have a vision of how it wishes to go about its mission activities. It must have clear and specific goals by which to accomplish its mission and do so in a way that fulfills its vision. There needs to be a clear decision-making process to support the establishment of goals and their implementation. This section discusses these topics.

THE VISION

US industry is refocusing and substantially broadening its vision of environmental management. The Department of Energy should do likewise. For current products and processes, that means setting pollution-prevention goals and acknowledging that the most effective way to reach them is to incorporate environmental criteria into experimental, process, and product designs.

The subcommittee recommends a life-cycle approach to ensure that environmental consideration is given to all processes and products, with a goal of eliminating or drastically reducing waste streams at every stage of the activity. In other words, the Department should pay more attention to the “front end” of the production cycle to minimize or eliminate what comes out the “back end.” Generally, it is much more effective from both environmental and cost standpoints to eliminate waste at the source (source reduction) than to try to reduce the volume or toxicity of waste once it is generated.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

That approach is appropriate for both programmatic activities (e.g., materials-development research) and remedial activities (e.g., preparation of high-level waste in storage tanks for eventual disposal).

Implementing this strategy will require incentives and removal of disincentives. Programs and operational groups should be expected to pay for the waste they generate. The current budget for EM provides funds for waste disposal for both the various ongoing programmatic activities of the Department and remedial-action programs. When a materials-development research program has to make a decision about what process to use in the laboratory, it does not have to give consideration to the costs of disposal of different alternative waste streams, because the EM Program has programmatic and budget responsibility for waste disposal. The research program in this example has no incentive to internalize the costs of disposal. If the research program had to provide funds to EM for the services rendered for waste disposal, incentives for waste minimization by the researchers would be in place. Additionally, waste minimization and pollution prevention should be evaluation criteria in performance review. Programs and groups should be rewarded for reducing and eliminating waste. Funding requests should be biased in favor of projects that have a strong life-cycle waste-minimization and pollution-prevention component and toward researchers who have demonstrated relevant concerns. It might be useful to develop public-recognition schemes for successful researchers.

Environmental remediation and decommissioning should not affect health or the environment adversely. Consideration of the life-cycle environmental cost of different remediation options should be included in cost-benefit decisions.

GOALS

The president of Clean Sites, Edwin H. Clark, succinctly described the problem facing many within the EM Program, including Department employees, contractors, and local citizens: “If you don't have hard statements of goals, it is difficult to figure out what to do to achieve them. ”

The Department and EM have produced many statements of goals, such as that in the latest risk report: “The primary focus of the [EM] program is to reduce the health and safety risks from radioactive and hazardous waste and contamination …” (DOE, 1995d). These were valuable when first promulgated, to lay out the philosophy of the new administration. However, when they continue to be the primary goals, they become pious statements that cannot be used to make decisions at Department sites and facilities.

The Department should take the steps necessary to establish goals with sufficient specificity for decision-making. The goals should be set first at the national level with a clearly identified process that can be used to develop

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

site-specific goals. They should incorporate land-use planning and enable risk-based and cost-based decision-making.

In the absence of clear and accepted goals, it should not be surprising that decisions are postponed or constantly revisited, that “the remediation program has accomplished far less than many wish” (DOE, 1995e), and that the Department “has been severely criticized because of the small amount of visible cleanup that has been accomplished” (DOE, 1995e).

One important example of a goal that needs greater specificity is just what level of cleanup is acceptable. “How clean is clean enough? ” is not a new issue. It has been a prominent question at least since the passage of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) in 1970. The question cannot be answered in the abstract or general sense. It is a site-specific decision incorporating many of the variables previously discussed. That few sites have determined those levels is a measure of the difficulty in doing so. However, as the Department remediation program reaches a funding level of many billions of dollars per year and the Department estimates that the program will last three-fourths of a century, this seemingly intractable issue must be addressed. Reasonable bounds of a range of such levels should be determined nationally.

We recognize that effective goals cannot be established simply by executive pronouncement. It requires involvement of the interested and affected parties. At the national level, EM could turn to the Environmental Management Advisory Board (EMAB) to recommend such goals; EMAB is composed of a broad range of people—technical experts, representatives of state governments, and local stakeholders. It might also be appropriate for the Department to propose establishing national goals by legislation, after development by the various stakeholders.

Another approach that might be tried is often used in industry when major changes are seen to be required. A small group of employees from different levels of the organization, including middle-level managers, are sent off for 6–12 months, relieved of all other responsibilities, and given the task of coming up with a solution to the major problem. A similar approach was used by the Environmental Protection Agency in its writing of Unfinished Business, in what became a fundamental study of EPA's allocation of efforts, to identify the disparity between what the agency's experts believed were the greatest risks and where EPA was focusing its resources, primarily in response to Congressional direction.

Without knowledge of land-use goals and cleanup-level goals, the identification of needed technology is difficult. There are ways to analyze situations that can help those making decisions about what technology to apply or develop, even when the goals are not final. The first report of the NRC Committee on Environmental Management Technology stated: “Evaluation of technological alternatives and optimization should consider the systematic

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

use of comparative risk and risk/benefit assessment” (NRC, 1995). We recognize that EM recently, in response to a Congressional request, produced a first step in evaluating the risks associated with the many activities and facilities in the EM complex (Risks and the Risk Debate: Searching for Common Ground “The First Step” (DOE, 1995d)). However, this is, as its title suggests, only a first step. EM should continue to develop a risk-based approach by having risk assessment done of the major activities under the EM umbrella. Risk assessment is especially useful when priorities must be set and decisions about human (worker and public) health and environmental health must be balanced against costs. The process should be open, so that the results will be understood by both the Department and stakeholders. It should undergo peer review by outside panels.

Risk assessments, which take several iterations to approach useful results, should compare the risks at the several major sites to enable prudent allocations of resources and to decide their sequence (NRC, 1994). Ultimately, the process should be capable of identifying the locations and situations that pose the most serious risks across the nation 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 be used to identify the benefits of risk reduction as part of overall cost-benefit analyses, which should form the basis for further priority-setting and for the timely resolution of contamination problems that must be addressed as required by law or compliance agreements.

A serious obstacle to remediation of sites is that the major factors that contribute to high costs in the remediation program have not been identified. Without that information, it is impossible to structure a cost-effective technology-development program. But the identification of needed technology is not possible without land-use goals and cleanup-level goals. Risk assessment can provide a way to overcome this barrier. Such existing models as MEPAS and RESRAD can be used to determine the risks associated with the proposed process or technology and compare it to a base case, that is, the technology most likely to be used today without further development. The use of those models in the past has been sparse because too few data were available. In some cases, the calculations may be too poorly supported because the input data are not sufficient and the models may not fit well. An effort to combine existing cost and risk numbers for activities may nevertheless be useful, in connection with dialogue with stakeholders on priorities for site remediation. However, the cost and residual risk for this base case could be determined with data from the BEMR (DOE, 1995b) and Risks and the Risk Debate: Searching for Common Ground (DOE, 1995d) reports. From this base case, the factors contributing the most to costs could be identified with reasonable probability. Once identified, the “cost drivers” could be analyzed with the models mentioned above to estimate what cost and risk changes would result

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

from changes in land-use goals, cleanup-level goals, and technology used. Standard decision theory can be used to see what is gained in risk reduction for each incremental increase in the cost of cleanup. The outcome of the process might well be a radical restructuring of goals, priorities, what is remediated, to what degree, and at what time. To be successful, such a process must be open, transparent, and inclusive from the very beginning. Stakeholders must be able to see the costs and risks associated with different options for the operation of Department facilities in their communities and for the remediation of different sites. In a number of situations where this information has been provided, stakeholders have supported decisions that would surprise critics of substantive stakeholder participation (for example, the far reaching land-use decisions at the Hanford, Washington and Fernald, Ohio sites that resulted from the deliberations of the Hanford Site Use Working Group and the Fernald Citizens Task Force, respectively).

At the local level, goals that are consistent with the national-level goals, but that take local factors into consideration, should be established. It might not be possible to establish national-level goals first, but it could be possible to reach local agreement. We recommend that EM continue to work with site contractors and stakeholders to establish waste-management and cleanup goals that are realistic, i.e., recognize health risks, resource constraints, and the state of technology. The approach being developed by several states to develop and test models for interstate cooperation on testing, evaluation, and permitting of innovative technologies, such as that under the auspices of the Western Governors Association (WGA), might accomplish some of those aims.

It should be recognized that the analytical approach to goal-setting for land use and cleanup levels described above is the basis for an iterative procedure or a comparative analysis that should be used to set priorities for technology development and to elucidate the effects of different land-use goals and cleanup-level goals. Exact values are not needed; the values need only be ranked. In an iterative process, a perfect analysis is not necessary at each stage. The important thing is to proceed, and that means not investing too much time and money in the process at the early stages.

The fact that the remediation process is going to continue for over 75 years, at a minimum, affects the approach to technology selection and development. Rushing to remediate now, instead of appropriately characterizing a site or developing a “better” technology, might be the most expensive approach to an already-expensive problem. Planning and technology development must be iterative because conditions will change and new developments will take place.

Moreover, there need not be the fixation to get it right the first time as the mix of remedies will change over time as the results of the remediation research become available. At that point the Records of Decision required

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

by regulatory agencies and agreed to earlier on specific activities for remediation can also be changed (just as they are now being changed regularly).

Even in the absence of national goals for cleanup or land use, EM must function in many regulatory systems. Site actions must be consistent with state and federal laws; with compliance agreements among the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and the states; with the wishes of citizen advisory groups; and with resource limitations. Such guidelines and limitations can be in conflict with each other or be unrealistic. The system has become overconstrained. The Department should attempt, as industry does, to take advantage of existing flexibility in laws and compliance agreements aggressively. However, industry does not have as many constraints as the Department; according to the report Train Wreck Along the River of Money (Blush and Heitman, 1995), the wishes of citizen advisory boards and compliance agreements among the Department, EPA, and states have resulted in this overconstrained situation. Pat Whitfield, a former senior Department of Energy official, stated at this subcommittee 's workshop that the “agreements were totally unrealistic on the day they were signed.” Agreements should be changed, frank discussion must be held with site advisory groups, and legislation might be required.

Finally, goals should be set within a framework that provides incentives for agency officials and communities to make decisions. One suggestion was proposed in recent Congressional testimony on Superfund reauthorization: “Communities might be more willing to accept lower cost remediation if a portion of the savings would accrue to the local communities for such things as infrastructure development, improved schools, etc.” (Parker, 1995).

PROCESS

EM has completed useful efforts to implement a new approach to its decision-making processes for technology selection, development, and utilization (DOE, 1994), but the subcommittee noted that decisions are made on differing bases or in some cases even by default. As EM has acknowledged, an explicit, comprehensive approach is needed to identify technology-development needs, opportunities, and applications. As this process evolves, EM should consider the following points of emphasis:

  • The types, scale, and scope of problems to be addressed should be clearly defined.

  • The type of decision-making process to be used should be based on the performance outcomes desired. That will clarify whether the process needs to be iterative—moving from a screening level of analysis to a more-detailed (possibly more-quantitative and data-based) approach —and whether it should use relative or absolute standards of judgment.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×
  • The essential elements or tools to be used in the process should be stated and defined. For example, risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis might be valuable in summarizing and synthesizing scientific, economic, and public-policy information.

  • Specific criteria should be developed for each element of each step in the decision-making process.

  • Input from focus-area staff, project-technology leads, external experts, and stakeholders might be needed at different points in the process.

  • Peer review should be used in the decision-making process. The peer-review system should exclude those who might be considered to have a conflict of interest. The peer-review groups should include members from outside the Department. Members of external peer-review groups who later develop conflicts of interest should be quickly removed from peer status. A peer-review system with the highest standards would go far in changing the insular image of the Department held by many and the common impression that review of an extramural R&D proposal by Department staff constitutes peer review.

  • Feedback should be obtained from technology decision-makers and users on the results of the process to ensure routine evaluation and timely improvement of decision-making processes.

  • Incentives should be provided to ensure timely closure in decision-making processes.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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Technology Selection and Development

CUSTOMER NEEDS

The selection of technologies for development beyond basic and applied research activities is a key step in the overall technology-development process of the Department. If technology selection is done properly, the selected technologies should be able to move through the complete development process and lead to solutions of identified problems. If it is done poorly, it can result in wasted resources, in customer dissatisfaction, and in lingering problems.

At its most fundamental level, successful technology development is a product of meeting customer needs by solving their problems to an acceptable degree. Where technology development takes place independently of customer (and stakeholder) needs, the rate of technology deployment is low. Where the needs of potential customers (and stakeholders) are identified and considered from the beginning of the development process, the likelihood of eventual technology acceptance and use is high.

The subcommittee recommends that the Department's technology-selection process be intimately linked with identified customer needs. We believe that the most important step that EM can take in this regard is to ensure that a structured process is implemented and consistently applied to require consideration of customer needs explicitly and seriously from the beginning of the process.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×
FOCUS AREAS

The EM technology-development program designated five priorities or “focus areas” for technology development:

  • Mixed-waste characterization, treatment, and disposal.

  • Radioactive tank-waste remediation.

  • Contaminant plume, containment, and remediation.

  • Landfill stabilization.

  • Facility transitioning, decommission, and final disposition.

The purpose of the focused approach is to bring together users and developers to decrease cost, decrease risk, and do what “cannot be done.” In addition to the focus areas, the Department has identified several cross-cutting or common areas: characterization, monitoring, and sensors; efficient separations and processing; robotics; and technology transfer.

The subcommittee thinks that the focus areas that have been defined provide an appropriate structure for accomplishing this objective. The focus areas provide a forum for bringing together technology developers, technology users, potential industrial partners, and other stakeholders for the purpose of developing technical products that can meet customer requirements. We endorse and validate this approach as being closer to a market-driven or user-driven system than any technology-development procedure previously used by the Department.

However, we are concerned that implementation of the focus areas has fallen short of the intended mark primarily because user and customer requirements have not yet been fully integrated into the decision-making process for selecting new technologies. Some members of the subcommittee have observed a general indifference to the process on the part of the key Offices of EM. We recommend that steps be taken to ensure that user involvement in the focus areas is sufficient (and has sufficient expertise) to influence the early selection of technologies for development.

DECISION PROCESS FOR SELECTING CANDIDATE TECHNOLOGIES FOR DEVELOPMENT

The subcommittee is aware that EM is developing a decision-making framework that could potentially be used to select technologies for development by EM. We support the refinement of this framework and its eventual acceptance and use by the focus areas. The lack of an accepted and consistently applied framework is a distinct problem.

The framework must clearly identify who has the responsibility and authority to ask, answer, and make appropriate decisions regarding such fundamental technology-selection questions as the following:

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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  • Is new technology needed to solve a given problem?

  • Is technology that can adequately solve the problem available or under development (either inside or outside the Department)?

  • If not, has the technical or scientific basis of any potential new technology that is being proposed been adequately demonstrated (theoretically or, better, experimentally)?

  • Does the proposed new technology address a priority Department need that has been identified by a potential technology user or stakeholder (either at one site or at multiple sites)?

  • How does the technology compare with other technologies that have been or are being developed elsewhere (including outside the Department complex)?

  • Is there a compelling reason (i.e., related to potential for success, cost, ability to solve a difficult problem, etc.) why the Department (rather than someone else) should pursue development of the technology?

In addition, the framework needs to have an explicit link between the proposed technology development and customer needs as stated above.

The subcommittee recommends that the responsible person or entity for technology selection be clearly identified and that a knowledgeable peer-review group (which is independent and includes members from outside the Department, as discussed above) have substantial influence in the selection decision.

Because new technologies are constantly being developed, the decision-making framework must recognize that technology selection for the Department is a dynamic process that must be periodically revisited. Understanding of what kinds of technology are becoming available, not only from inside the Department but also from outside, is necessary.

Circumstances that must be accounted for in making technology-selection decisions change (e.g., funding levels may decline, the understanding of the health effects of different circumstances in the DOE complex may change, and the consequence for the environment may be better appreciated), so technology-selection decisions should be made with a view to achieving a strategic mix of technology developments that have short-term and longer-term payoffs.

TECHNOLOGY-DEVELOPMENT MODEL

The strategy of organizing EM technology development within focus areas offers the opportunity for radical redesign of procedures for development of new environmental-remediation technologies. To achieve optimal return from the new approach, a much-needed and fundamental paradigm shift for the EM technology-development program, a progressive conceptual model must be developed to guide and manage the process. Each focus area will have

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

some special features and requirements, but the basic elements of the model will be more similar than different for the different focus areas. A model that divides technology-development projects into six categories or “gates” with screening criteria was discussed at the workshop. Gate 1 is the entrance for applied research, gate 2 is the entrance for exploratory development, gate 3 is the entrance for advanced development, gate 4 is the entrance for engineering development, gate 5 is the entrance for demonstration, and gate 6 is the entrance for implementation (see Figure 1).

Several specific requirements of the EM technology maturation model identified by the subcommittee should strengthen the EM technology-development effort.

Models for technology development must be strongly coupled to supporting research and development and to technology demonstration and utilization programs. That might be difficult to accomplish, considering the varied nature and dispersed organization of the research supported by the Department that is applicable to technology development. For example, the subsurface-science research program is not in EM, and most of the environmental-process research in EM is not in the Office of Technology Development. Nevertheless, because most new environmental-restoration technologies in several of the focus areas have their origins and underpinnings in environmental-process research (e.g., in transport, fate, and subsurface characteristics), a carefully nurtured, interactive relationship must be established between basic and applied research and technology development.

EM has recently begun an effort to coordinate its technology-development efforts with the Office of Energy Research, which houses much of the Department's basic research and is the principal office for interaction with nondefense Department National Laboratories. The Congress has allocated $50 million of EM Program funds for this effort. This type of linkage, including the defense-related Laboratories, where much of the expertise in nuclear materials resides, is precisely what is called for by this subcommittee. The Department should extend this attempt to create partnerships to include the basic-research efforts in universities and industrial concerns that are developing technology or undertaking their own research.

As with any program initiative in the Department that involves many groups with their own programmatic objectives (e.g., basic research in support of the Department's missions versus applied research for specific projects), it can be difficult to create an effective link between basic research and the needs of a specific program, such as the EM Program. A principal challenge to its success will be to convince all those who have managerial responsibility for the different groups that this shared initiative deserves their support and encouragement. The Department should provide incentives to its managers, Laboratories, and contractors to make initiatives like this a success.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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FIGURE 1 Gated Evaluation Process.

SOURCE: Gretchen McCabe, Battelle. Presentation at the National Academy of Sciences, July 12, 1995.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

A way must be found to empower environmental-technology users to participate effectively in the allocation of applied-research and technology-development funding, regardless of the source in the Department.

Technology development must be tightly coupled to technology demonstration and user implementation if the barriers to the introduction of new technology are to be overcome. A mechanism that has proved effective in overcoming a number of barriers is stakeholder involvement from technology selection through all stages of development to final implementation. Stakeholder must also be broadly defined and include not only R&D and user personnel, but regulators at all levels, permit writers, and the public.

As emphasized above, a productive technology-development model must also be based on clearly articulated goals and analyses to determine whether the goals are likely to be achieved. Analyses should be included at multiple points in the development process to justify continued investment. Life-cycle costs of technologies in development should be subjected to economic analysis, and the potential risk reduction likely to result from the technology should be analyzed before huge sums are invested.

Cost analyses must be benchmarked against available technologies or other technologies under development, regardless of the sponsor. That will require EM to improve its research and technology-development outreach by opening the Department's R&D program to all qualified persons and organizations, regardless of type or location.

The subcommittee believes that technology-development funds should be awarded on a competitive basis. Creative partnerships between industry, academe, and National Laboratories should be encouraged.

Many of the Department's waste-management issues are not peculiar to the Department; they are faced by private industries and the Department of Defense as well. The Department should make full use of the expertise and talent in universities, industry, and other federal agencies. The role of industry and universities should be of several kinds:

  • External peer review.

  • Collaboration in technology development.

  • Primary participation in technology development.

As with the technology-selection process, development should incorporate a broad-based system of peer review that is carefully implemented and monitored to ensure equity.

A system of incentives must be developed to increase the likelihood that new technologies will be implemented. Stakeholder involvement will help, but other approaches should be considered such as grants to communities that cooperate in the demonstration of new technologies.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS AS PART OF THE TECHNOLOGY-DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

Calculation of costs and benefits takes into account a number of factors. Costs should include life-cycle costs, as well as shorter-term costs. Life-cycle cost is an estimate of the full cost of implementing the technology over its expected life; estimation uses a discounted present value analysis (in its most useful form, a range of interest rates, including 0.0%, are used). This allows comparison of short-term capital intensive technologies with longer-term, more cost-effective technologies on an equal basis. Examples of benefits are: decreased likelihood that contamination will reach or affect a population, increased reliability of the method for containing pollution or remediating, decreased production of secondary waste, increasing safety for workers in the environmental management program, and development of a method that might have wide use or commercial viability. As with any analytical tool of this kind, life-cycle analysis has its critics. DOE should use it with this in mind, be certain to make clear statements about the assumptions used, and seek participation of stakeholders in making judgments about these assumptions.

Cost-benefit analysis should be included at each step of the research and technology-development process in the Department. Obviously, the proof of effectiveness should be much less stringent and detailed for basic and applied research and for exploratory development than would be required for moreadvanced stages of technology development.

The technology-development model with screening criteria was presented at the workshop by Gretchen McCabe of Battelle (see Figure 1, above). The general approach embodied in the screening criteria was supported by the subcommittee. Although many variants of this model are possible, it serves the purpose of making a few general points. In the model presented, cost-benefit analysis is used to determine whether a project passes the fourth gate from “advanced development” to “engineering development,” which involves prototype development and testing. Incorporation of cost-benefit analysis at this stage in the process is appropriate, but as stated above, it should be applied throughout the process and with different levels of detail, depending on the uncertainties associated with the particular stage of development.

The level of detail required for cost-benefit analysis is different at different levels of technology development. For projects in the basic-research, applied-research, or exploratory-development stage, there should be a description of scientific reasons for expecting costs to be reduced if the project is developed and of benefits (with respect to risk reduction, cleanup time, and reduction of secondary wastes) that can be expected if the project is successful. The scientific basis for expecting specific benefits needs to be explained. The issues that will substantially affect costs and benefits should be identified as early as possible in the technology-development process.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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For more-advanced projects (gates 4, 5, and 6), the level of detail about costs and benefits should be increased. Claims of cost savings or benefits should be documented. At this point, information on the expected implementation of the technology should be sufficient for estimating the life-cycle cost for some generic or site-specific examples. It should also allow estimation of hidden implementation costs. In the assessment of these more-mature projects (gates 4– 6), specific cost-benefit goals should be stated; e.g., a working target might be to remove cadmium from soil at a cost 20% less than the cost of current landfill solutions or to remove a contaminant from groundwater at a rate 30% faster and at no higher cost than a current-pump-and-treat strategy. The decision to fund further technology-development projects will be based in part on the stated goals and the ability of the projects to meet goals declared at earlier gates. There should be at all stages a comparison of the costs and benefits of using the new technology and established technologies for the same pollution problem.

For example, aquifer characteristics, such as hydraulic conductivity might be known to have a major effect on the feasibility and cost of a particular bioremediation technology. Hydraulic conductivity is a measure of how easily water moves through soil; it varies widely between soil types. In this example, proposals for bioremediation programs in the early stages (e.g., research or exploratory development) should identify this important property of soils and discuss how the issue will be considered in the analysis. Proposals for more advanced work (advanced or engineering development and beyond) should be able to measure the impact of hydraulic conductivity on feasibility and cost. In addition, consideration of the applicability of a particular technology should include a discussion of the impact of this factor (e.g., how large the market for this type of technology is, given the conductivity requirements). For most projects, several such issues need to be identified early in development and continually revisited with increasingly detailed analysis as the technology passes through the various gates.

Peer reviewers should have information about the costs and benefits of a technology project in comparison with those of other existing technologies to assist them in their evaluations.

ROLE OF THE NATIONAL LABORATORIES IN TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT

The decision as to whether National Laboratories, universities, or industry should take the lead in the development of any particular technology should be based on a competitive process that undergoes external review, not on a formula or some other form of entitlement. Often, teaming together and partnering different groups for the development of a particular technology is the most effective approach.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
×

National Laboratories constitute an extraordinary technical resource in both capability and size. It must be recognized, however, that they are unique in culture and expertise (especially with nuclear materials); this can be both an advantage and a disadvantage in bringing new technologies to bear in restoration activities. There must be strong external benchmarking and peer review of research and technology-development efforts in National Laboratories. The Laboratories must be open to procurement of “outside” capabilities even when the main body of the R&D fits inside. As with all participants in the technology-development effort, a Laboratory should structure efforts to be responsive to the technology customers.

Experience has demonstrated time and again that the National Laboratories are most effective at producing technologies that have potential for commercialization when they are linked to industry at the earliest possible time. The idea is for industry to provide “technology pull ” that can guide R&D so that a product meets customer requirements and there are no surprises when it is turned over to industry for commercialization.

Partnerships between industry, the Laboratories, and universities in which each party contributes what it does best may be desirable. 4 The National Laboratories, for example, have extraordinary expertise in simulation and modeling, advanced materials, chemistry, fluid dynamics, and other disciplines of potential interest to industry. Furthermore, the Laboratories have officially designated user facilities —usually one-of-a-kind instruments or Laboratories that are available for industrial collaboration with a minimum of paperwork and bureaucracy.

Other models for technology development have not been very successful. Technologies that are developed without industry participation face a much more difficult road to commercialization for a variety of reasons, ranging from difficulty of manufacture to the “not invented here” syndrome where a company is not interested in developing a technology because it had nothing to do with its earliest development.

4  

An example of this partnership model is developing at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In early 1995, Motorola approached the Laboratory about developing technologies for cleanup of solvent-contaminated groundwater. Motorola visited the Laboratory on several occasions to inform Laboratory scientists and engineers of the customer requirements, including providing information on the extent of the problem and possible approaches that would be acceptable in the existing corporate and regulatory environment. The Laboratory plans to allocate some of its FY 1996 laboratory-directed research and development funds to start a small number of projects that will be conducted with expanded industry involvement, including that of Motorola and other interested companies. If promising solutions can be developed during the coming year, Motorola has agreed to lead a program-development effort for continued funding.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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Technology Utilization

The magnitude and diversity of Department waste-management problems dictate that there be a hierarchy of approaches to deciding where and when technologies are used or developed. The hierarchy should apply even within a technology-selection process like that described above. These approaches can be categorized according to the nature of the remediation activity as

  • Technologies related to interim waste-management measures, such as those needed to maintain burial grounds, existing facilities, waste repositories, and plant-waste treatment systems until a final remediation option is agreed on and effected.

  • Technologies related to final remediation of wastes, such as those needed for processing waste-tank contents, producing final waste forms, and decontaminating and decommissioning equipment and facilities. It is important to note here that the EM Program must define final waste forms in collaboration with the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Disposal if it is to guide the development of these technologies properly.

  • Technologies needed in connection with custodial activities, including a wide spectrum of instrumentation for monitoring and isolating sites that must still be retained by the Department.

Which technology approach to pursue will be determined by which goals (such as land use and cleanup levels) are selected and what level of priority a particular site or remediation activity receives on the basis of the magnitude of associated risks and cost-benefit rating.

There are several ways to obtain technologies. The best approach will

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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depend upon whether the problem is peculiar to Department sites, is not peculiar to Department sites but poses a need for improved technologies and processes for remediation, or can be solved with existing technologies supplied by private companies.

It is important to establish an explicit policy to encourage private-company participation in solving problems in the first two categories. Successful participation in the first category will mean that the waste-management experience of the private sector will be shared and market-driven management principles will be brought to the problem. In the second category, involvement of the private sector might lead to the development of a process or technology that gains broader commercial-market acceptance.

For private companies to enter the technology market for Department waste problems successfully, they must have or develop an adequate and secure financial base, a facility for manufacturing and distributing equipment, and a good understanding of the regulatory and liability aspects of doing business with the Department. If any of those requirements are missing, the Department should be prepared to assist the companies if it finds the technology desirable. The technology must be both “robust” and safe. In all procurement approaches, there must be provisions for testing and validation of technologies in real-world conditions. The possibility of failure to meet target criteria or goals must be accommodated without excessive penalties. In fact, what is learned from failure can sometimes be as valuable as success would have been. The Department should indemnify a technology developer during test and demonstration against an unplanned contamination of the environment, but not against failure to properly perform the work. The site operator and the local stakeholders who have taken risks in deciding to use innovative technology should be rewarded, not penalized, if the technology fails.

When the point is reached where technology procurement is required it is essential that the responsible, knowledgeable people at the individual sites be intimately involved in defining the bounds of the problem. It is necessary to have trained, experienced, competent people; support organizations to ensure the health and safety of personnel; and management and maintenance functions to sustain the site infrastructure. In most cases, the site-operating contractor must retain the right of final approval of the proposed technology, to the extent that it can ensure the health and safety of people both on the site and in the community around the site, so that it can ensure preservation of its investment in the site.

Technologies exist both in the Department complex and in private industry to deal with many of the Department's waste problems. Some problems, however, are so complex that there is no identifiable technological solution. A possible way to deal with such problems is to break them into smaller problems. That creates a requirement for important systems analyses and

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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technology-interface studies before decisions on technology procurement can be made.

It is especially important that narrowly defined solutions to individual problems not create or exacerbate other problems. For example, technologies for treating Hanford tank wastes might very well remove wastes from the tanks, but the resulting product streams could be very expensive to vitrify or could lead to excessive volumes of waste. It is critical to consider the waste problem and its solution broadly enough for the solution chosen to deal effectively and acceptably with the whole problem in a systems context. It does little to solve the Hanford tank-waste problem (although it may help some in reducing worker risks) by emptying the tanks to within 99% of total cleanup if there has been significant leakage from the tanks already into the surrounding soil. In a case like that, barrier technology to isolate the tank farm might be preferable to technology for cleaning out the tanks and separating the waste constituents for individual disposal.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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References

Blush, Steven M. and Thomas H. Heitman. 1995 Train Wreck Along the River of Money: an Evaluation of the Hanford Cleanup, A Report for the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Washington, D.C.

DOE (U.S. Department of Energy). 1994. A New Approach to Environmental Research and Technology Development at the Department of Energy: Action Plan. U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management, Washington, D.C.

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.

DOE (U.S. Department of Energy). 1995b. Estimating the Cold War Mortgage: The 1995 Baseline Environmental Management Report. Volume I, March 1995. U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management, Washington, D.C.

DOE (U.S. Department of Energy). 1995c. Environmental Management 1995: Progress and Plans of the Environmental Management Program. The U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Management Washington, D.C.

DOE (U.S. Department of Energy). 1995d. Risks and the Risk Debate: Searching for Common Ground “The First Step”. The U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Management Washington, D.C.

DOE (U.S. Department of Energy). 1995e. Alternative Futures for the Department of Energy Laboratories. The U.S. Department of Energy, Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Washington, D.C.

NRC (National Research Council). 1994. Building Consensus Through Risk Assessment and Risk Management in the Department of Energy's Environmental Remediation Program. National Research Council, Washington, D.C.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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NRC (National Research Council). 1995. Committee on Environmental Management Technologies: Report for the Period Ending December 31, 1994. National Research Council, Washington, D.C.

OTA (U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment). 1991. Complex Cleanup: The Environmental Legacy of Nuclear Weapons Production OTA-O484. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

Parker, Frank L. Statement of Frank L. Parker, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Engineering, Vanderbilt University, Westinghouse Distinguished Scientist Professor of Environmental Systems Engineering, Clemson University. Senate Committee on Environment and Public May 9, 1995.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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Appendix PREVIOUS STUDIES

The titles and brief summaries of many of the studies on improving technology development follow.

  1. Status and Analysis of Environmental Technology Management at DOE, October 1994. The report summarizes major observations made in analyzing the technology-development efforts of the Office of Waste Management, the Office of Environmental Restoration, and the Office of Technology Development and makes recommendations on the basis of some of these observations. Among the observations are the following: technology developers must recognize that environmental technology is needed now for field application to problems that pose a threat, industrial partners must be involved, most of the Department's technology-development efforts are directed toward the enhancement of existing technologies, and a considerable number of environmental technologies and services available in the private sector can be applied now to the Department 's environmental-restoration needs. The Department is implementing a new approach to environmental technology and development that will correct some of the conditions observed. The new structure is aimed at reducing redundancy, increasing communication, and coordinating and streamlining the process of technology development and management better.

  2. Barriers to Environmental Technology Commercialization, Environmental Management Advisory Board, Technology Development and Transfer Subcommittee, April 1995. The subcommittee categorized the numerous complex

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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barriers into two broad groups: primary barriers, which the Department can influence substantially; and secondary barriers, which are more generic. Examples of identified primary barriers are lack of adequate Departmentsite characterizations, insufficient technology performance or cost data, and cumbersome Department contracting and procurement requirements. Examples of identified secondary barriers are lack of entrepreneurial management, lack of adequate development funding, lack of consistent regulatory enforcement, and limited technology applications for the private sector. Some of the secondary barriers are acknowledged to be outside the realm of the Department. The subcommittee also acknowledges that developing new environmental technologies to reach the marketplace is a battle. The subcommittee recommends the acceleration of assessments of Department-site contamination to provide faster definition of technology and market needs, strengthening of the linkage between technology development and technology deployment, and continuation of aggressive collaborative efforts with EPA and states to resolve or reduce major impediments to permitting.

  1. Committee on Environmental Management Technologies Report for the Period Ending December 31, 1994, NRC, Board on Radioactive Waste Management, Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources, 1995. The first report of this committee supports EM's attempts to find generic solutions to major environmental problems through integration of the activities of EM-30, EM-40, EM-50, and EM-60 and encourages EM to continue to focus R&D efforts on clearly identified problems. The committee also recommends the development of new technologies as backups to current technologies.

  2. Federal Environmental Research and Development, Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government, 1992. The report recognizes that the federal government generally lacks a coordinated approach toward environmental R&D. That lack makes it difficult to establish budget priorities and conduct efficient and effective research.

  3. Preparing for the Future Through Science and Technology: An Agenda for Environmental and Natural Resources, National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, March 1995. The report divides research in the areas of toxic substances and wastes into risk assessment and risk management (pollution prevention, controls, remediation, and monitoring). Subjects of “enhanced emphasis ” named in the report include improving risk-assessment capabilities and improving risk-management tools. The report emphasizes the need for developing more cost-effective means of remediating short-term environmental problems. The report recommends accelerating the diffusion of new technologies into the marketplace through partnerships with industry, state and local governments, academe, and nongovernment organizations.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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  1. Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Environmental Security, Department of Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Acquisition and Technology, April 1995. The DOD environmental-remediation effort costs billions of dollars per year. Among the subjects for improvement that the report addresses is accelerating environmental-technology development and deployment. It notes that many existing technologies offer risk-reduction and cost-reduction potentials that are not being realized, partly because of regulatory barriers. It identifies the barriers to deployment of new environmental technology as forming the most serious bottleneck and expresses concern that with today 's shrinking environmental budgets, investments in environmental science and technology that could substantially reduce future costs will not be made. The group made several recommendations for accelerating technology development and deployment. Among them are devoting an additional $150 million per year for accelerated environmental-technology demonstration and verification, making assignment of responsibility clear, developing a set of incentives for federal-site directors to use new technologies, and expanding cooperation among agencies and with industry.

  2. Alternative Futures for the Department of Energy Laboratories, February 1995. Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, Chapter III, “The Energy, Environment, and Related Sciences and Engineering Role. ” This report, also known as the Galvin report, examines the role of the Department's National Laboratories. This section reviewed the Department's EM Program and addressed the Laboratories' energy and environmental roles and strongly criticized the EM Program. One of the most important challenges facing the Department and its Laboratories, as noted in the report, is to achieve greater integration of its various applied and fundamental energy R&D programs. Many facets of research and technology development constitute the appropriate energy agenda for the Laboratories.

  3. Management Changes Needed to Expand Use of Innovative Cleanup Technologies, U.S. General Accounting Office, August 1994. The report identifies internal and external barriers to the use of new environmental technologies. It notes that although the Department has spent a large amount to develop waste-cleanup technology, little new technology is being incorporated into the agency's cleanup actions. Part of the agency 's problem, the report notes, is that the Department does not have a well-coordinated and fully integrated technology-development program. The Department's plan to restructure its technology development programs is a step toward alleviating these problems. In addition, field offices will consider new and innovative technologies more seriously.

  4. Cleaning Up the Department of Energy's Nuclear Weapons Complex, Congressional Budget Office, May 1994. The report outlines the Department 's environmental problems and its cleanup program, including such policy issues as understanding risks, weighing costs and benefits, setting priorities, and

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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investing in the development of better technologies. The report acknowledges that the Department's cleanup program must address a problem that was created and largely ignored over the last 50 years. The Department is faced with addressing that problem during an especially tight budget climate. The report suggests that understanding of risks and costs better would be the best way to determine priorities for allocating scarce cleanup funds. It recommends investing more heavily in technology development, delaying technically difficult projects, and cutting overhead costs to improve the efficiency of cleanup efforts. In addition, new management systems might help the Department and Congress track the performance of cleanup projects.

Suggested Citation:"Part 4: Utilization of Science, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1995. Improving the Environment: An Evaluation of the DOE's Environmental Management Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5173.
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This book addresses remedial action and waste management problems that the DOE and the nation are now facing that are the result of 50 years of nuclear weapons development and testing—problems that require a reengineering of systems and a reexamination of the scientific, engineering, and institutional barriers to achieving cost-effective and safe stewardship of the nation's resources. Improving the Environment evaluates the DOE's environmental management program in four areas: regulatory measures, organization and management, priority-setting, timing and staging, and science and technology.

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