DOE falls Billions behind in cleanups…

Posted on March 10, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Cleanup of nuclear weapons sites is behind schedule and over budget, audit shows, but DOE cuts program

OPTIMISTIC MILESTONES in cleaning up the nuclear weapons complex cannot be met, the Department of Energy recently announced. With much fanfare, the Bush Administration set milestones just a few years ago. Now, DOE must begin renegotiating agreements reached with states to reflect new and more accurate costs and schedules revealed last year in a program-wide audit, says Assistant Secretary James A. Rispoli, who manages the agency’s cleanup program.

The audit shows that the cost to clean up extensive radioactive and hazardous waste contamination is likely to be as high as $305 billion, more than $50 billion higher than the Administration’s earlier estimate. It also may take until 2062 to finish the job—more than 20 years longer than original estimates. Yet this year’s cleanup budget proposal is $5.5 billion, the lowest level in the last 15 years for the huge cleanup program.

Former energy secretary Spencer Abraham set the earlier milestones in 2002 as part of his “accelerated cleanup plan.” The plan was based on a top-to-bottom review of the overall cleanup program, Abraham said at the time.

In 2002, Abraham said: “When I became energy secretary, a little more than a year ago today, I was presented with the old plan for cleaning up our sites, which called for a timetable of some 70 years to complete and at a cost of $300 billion. That is not good enough for me, and I doubt it is good enough for anyone who lives near these sites.”

Abraham then announced his new plan to cut the program by at least $50 billion and to complete cleanups at nearly all sites by 2035. His plan required state and local officials where the contaminated sites are located to agree to accelerate cleanups and in return the state would receive adequate funding. At the time, some local officials called the plan “blackmail” and complained that cleanup standards would be lowered in return for receiving funds for the cleanup. But they went along and revised their cleanup plans (C&EN, March 25, 2002, page 12).


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