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The costs of cleaning up DOE.

The costs of cleaning up DOE

The Department of Energy (DOE) has taken a lot of criticism in recent months for the management and safety of its aging defense facilities, which produce nuclear material for weapons (SN: 8/27/88, p.133). Last July, the General Accounting Office estimated that cleaning up DOE's defense facilities would cost about $20 billion. Two new DOE reports suggest this estimate seriously understates the agency's defense-cleanup needs -- perhaps by a factor of four. Moreover, these reports indicate that the 17 sites conducting DOe's defense work are far from the only DOE facilities in need of costly environmental cleanup.

One report charged with estimating the agency's environment, health and safety needs through the year 2010 found that 31 of DOE's 45 sites will need changes to bring air pollution, liquid discharges and trash management into compliance with existing federal laws. DOE figures those changes will cost $7 billion to $14 billion. Removing or stabilizing DOe's hazardous and radioactive wastes, now contaminating soil or water at about 37 sites, could cost $64 billion more. Additional costs to manage the agency's radioactive wastes and to decontaminate and decommission inactive facilities (which had once handled nuclear materials) could add another $13.5 billion to the tab.

The second report, estimating only what's needed to take care of the agency's defense-complex problems, indicates investments of more than $80 billion may be required over the next 20 years -- with almost $30 billion for environmental cleanup alone. Most cleanup funds would go to three sites: the Rocky Flats Plant near Golden, Colo. (now scheduled to be shut down); and the Hanford Plant in Richland, Wash., and Fernald (Ohio) Materials Production Center (both slated to lose nuclear-materials production responsibilities).
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 28, 1989
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