Federal Cleanups: Good News from Bad

by Teresa Austin, Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 345 East 47th Street, New York City, NY.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1994, Vol. 64, Issue 3, Pg. 48-51

Document Type: Feature article


Since the end of the Cold War the news about the Department of Energy has been grim: Thousands of acres poisoned with radioactive and toxic wastes, massive cleanup cost overruns due to contractor waste and fraud, a nuclear waste vitrification plant that's yet to be built and may not solve any problems when it is. But five years and $12 billion into the world's largest environmental cleanup there's a glimmer of good news. Slowly, DOE is developing and nurturing technology that may help restore its battered land. Better yet, much of this technology is passing to the private sector for use in cleanups outside the DOE realm. When it came to developing remediation technology, the agency had little choice. In its 1989 five year plan DOE promised Congress it would bring all facilities into environmental compliance with applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations by 2019, for a cost of about $100 billion. But the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, in a February 1991 report to congress, stated that DOE's goal....is unfounded. It is not based on meaningful estimates of work to be done, the level of cleanup to be completed, or the availability of technologies to achieve certain cleanup levels. Legal limits on the labs' ability to work with industry in shared research and development projects were removed in 1989, when Congress gave lab officials the authority to enter into cooperative research and development agreements. The labs have now signed nearly 400 of these agreements.

Subject Headings: Federal government | Radioactive wastes | Waste treatment | Research and development | Benefit cost ratios | Toxicity | Project management

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