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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges 5 Findings and Recommendations To help sustain future investments for research and development (R&D) of new technologies for Department of Energy (DOE) site cleanup, Congress requested that the DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM) develop an Engineering and Technology Roadmap.1 As EM began work on the Roadmap, the DOE Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management and the EM Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) turned to the National Research Council (NRC) for assistance. The NRC in turn empaneled the committee that prepared this final report. The preceding chapters have addressed the four items of the committee’s statement of task.2 This chapter summarizes the committee’s advice to EM and presents its formal findings and recommendations. This chapter’s first section recalls the committee’s key observations in its interim report (reprinted in Appendix H) and, from these observations, develops overarching themes relevant to the EM cleanup mission and to the EM roadmap. The second section presents the committee’s findings and recommendations. The third section gives a final set of observations that may lead to an enhanced role for engineering and technology development in assisting EM to successfully complete its 30-year DOE site cleanup mission. 1 EM’s Engineering and Technology Roadmap (DOE 2008b) is referred to as the EM roadmap or simply as the Roadmap. 2 The committee’s Statement of Task appears in Chapter 1, Sidebar 1.1.
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges OBSERVATIONS FROM THE INTERIM REPORT AND OVERARCHING THEMES Three key observations from the interim report helped frame the committee’s deliberations that led to this final report. These observations and the overarching themes that emerged from them may help guide EM’s future R&D roadmapping and enhance its cleanup efforts. Observation 1: The complexity and enormity of EM’s cleanup task require the results from a significant, ongoing R&D program so that EM can complete its cleanup mission safely, cost-effectively, and expeditiously. The EM cleanup program will continue for at least another 30 years and may cost $300 billion. This is clearly a long-term commitment for the U.S. government and for DOE. Considering how science, technology, and the focus of public debate on science and technology issues have changed in the past 30 years, EM will face continuing changes in the technical state of the art and in public expectations as it pursues its cleanup program. Three overarching themes emerged from this study that bear on the long-term nature of the EM program: (1) establishing cleanup goals (i.e., deciding how clean is clean); (2) gaining and preserving knowledge for cleanup; and (3) striking an appropriate balance between long-, medium-, and short-term R&D. Incorporating these overarching themes in the Roadmap can help ensure that EM has sound scientific and technical bases for its long-term planning and decision making. Establishing Cleanup Goals The need to decide “how clean is clean” is pervasive in the EM cleanup program. The results of such decisions are primary drivers for technology initiatives in the main program areas in the Roadmap, including retrieval of tank waste residues, groundwater and soil remediation, and end points for facility deactivation and decommissioning. Deciding how clean is clean is continually evolving among DOE, its regulators, and public citizens. One example of evolving cleanup objectives is determining the degree to which tank waste heels must be removed in order that the residue can be defined as “waste incidental to reprocessing,” which can be left on DOE sites, rather than defined as “high-level waste,” which must be disposed in a specially licensed geologic repository. Technical factors that may affect these decisions were examined in NRC (2006b). The incidental waste provisions in law apply only to Idaho and Savannah River wastes; how the law or similar provisions might be applied to Hanford tank waste is yet to be determined. At every site, future decisions about when to declare a waste
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges tank to be clean enough for permanent closure will be made in negotiations among DOE, its federal and state regulators, and public representatives. Another example of evolving cleanup objectives is the agreement finalized on July 1, 2008, by the state of Idaho and DOE, which requires DOE to remove most of the transuranic (TRU) waste buried in the Subsurface Disposal Area at the Idaho site. Initially DOE considered the waste, buried between 1952 and 1970, to be permanently disposed. DOE recognized in 2001 that some buried TRU should be removed (DOE 2001; NRC 2002). Six years of litigation, technical analyses, and negotiations begun in 2002, when the state brought legal proceedings in U.S. District Court to determine DOE’s responsibility for these wastes, eventually culminated in the 2008 agreement.3 To support decisions on how clean is clean, DOE typically makes a technical assessment of a cleanup problem that balances the risks, environmental impacts, costs, and schedules for varying degrees of cleanup. For the assessment to be acceptable and defensible requires that the assessment and the process to prepare it be transparent to stakeholders (including the public), be scientifically sound, and consistent with assessments of similar problems. The examples above indicate that preparing acceptable and defensible assessments is not easy for DOE, and that DOE may have difficulty in defending its decisions. A necessary role for ongoing EM R&D is to provide state-of-the-art knowledge to guide and support its cleanup decision making as society’s perspectives on how clean is clean continue to evolve. Gaining and Preserving Site Knowledge for Cleanup In addition to EM R&D’s providing state-of-the-art knowledge for decision making, success of a 30-year program requires the preservation of knowledge and expertise. This involves, first, maintaining a core of personnel who have first-hand knowledge of site cleanup needs, how they have developed, and previous lessons learned; and, second, managing accumulated information and knowledge. Knowledgeable Personnel Few who are active today will see the end of the site cleanup program, and more to the point, many of today’s site-knowledgeable personnel are retiring. Over the long haul of the cleanup program, personnel who can develop expertise, experience, and understanding of a site’s history must be recruited and retained. Continuity in the specialized expertise and experi- 3 See http://www.deq.idaho.gov/inl_oversight/contamination/agreement_waste_removal_2008.cfm.
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges ence base required for the cleanup effort is an essential ingredient for the success of EM’s long-term program. Knowledgeable personnel can provide historical insights concerning which cleanup approaches were effective—or not—and how to efficiently and safely conduct operations at facilities that have evolved over half a century. The result of not having such knowledge is likely to be higher cost resulting from ignorance of lessons learned, leading to additional resources being needed to relearn what had been known and compensate for mistakes made through ignorance. Inefficient or potentially unsafe operations are also likely results of such ignorance. All four sites visited by the committee cited challenges in maintaining continuity in technical staff with the experience required to analyze, plan, and implement activities to clean up the DOE sites. Challenges are being encountered in recruiting technical personnel ranging from technicians performing cleanup operations and supporting R&D to Ph.D.-level staff performing science, technology, and design activities. Experienced personnel at all of these levels are retiring and replacements are either not being made or are difficult to attract to this work. These challenges were attributed to a combination of factors: unstable budgets, increasing demand for nuclear-savvy personnel in the resurgent civilian nuclear sector, and a perception that career opportunities would be short-lived because the cleanup program was going out of business in the near future. In cutting back EM R&D funding, DOE has, perhaps inadvertently, sent a message that says “cleanup does not need new technology” and “cleanup is not as important as other programs within DOE.” Messages such as these have an impact on recruiting and retaining the necessary personnel, as well as on how the EM organization is viewed from both inside and outside of DOE. Knowledge Management Chapter 3 stated that maintaining information archives to house and integrate the growing knowledge of site characteristics that govern contaminant fate and transport is an important role for the national laboratories. More broadly, EM and the national laboratories have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to maintain the accumulated knowledge from site cleanup programs and R&D in ways that are easily accessible. The term “knowledge management” refers to a discipline that seeks to improve the performance of individuals and organizations by maintaining and leveraging the present and future value of knowledge assets. It includes human and automated activities as well as the processes an organization uses to optimize its intellectual capital to achieve organizational objectives.4 One element of government reform efforts initiated by the President in 4 See http://www.systems-thinking.org/kmgmt/kmgmt.htm.
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges 2001 is expanding electronic government and one component of the E-government effort is knowledge management.5 As a consequence, knowledge management has been getting increasing attention during the last several years under the leadership of the Best Practices Committee of the Federal Chief Information Officer Council (FCIOC) of which DOE is a member.6 The resources being organized by the FCIOC and collaboration with other FCIOC members could be valuable to the EM cleanup program. Regular symposia on knowledge management are organized by the Digital Government Institute. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, an agency supporting substantial R&D efforts and having complex operational issues conceptually similar to the EM cleanup program, has an active knowledge management program.7 The Roadmap can be an important component of knowledge management by using the R&D needs it displays as a basis for identifying high-priority areas of knowledge on which knowledge management efforts could focus. Balance Between Long-, Medium-, and Short-Term R&D It was clear from the committee’s visits to all four sites that the research being done was largely driven through the cleanup contractors who primarily supported short-term research to meet the contractors’ objectives. However, the long period of time over which EM will be performing increasingly difficult cleanup tasks and the nature of some of the technology gaps indicate that a portfolio of longer-term R&D programs is needed. The scope of the medium- to longer-term research would include addressing the gaps that this committee identified, knowledge building, and seeking transformational technologies. One would expect the Roadmap to include a mix of R&D projects that span a spectrum of time in terms of availability of results. As stated in the interim report (Appendix H), providing support for the longer term is a responsibility of DOE. Observation 2: By identifying the highest cost and/or risk aspects of the site cleanup program, the EM roadmap can be an important tool for guiding DOE headquarters investments in longer-term R&D to support efficient and safe cleanup. As it continued its deliberations after issuing the interim report, and especially after considering the information presented at its April 2008 meeting on leveraging EM investment, the committee concluded that road- 5 See http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg/egovstrategy.pdf. 6 See http://www.cio.gov/index.cfm?function=aboutthecouncil. 7 See http://wiki.nasa.gov/cm/wiki/?id=1926).
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges mapping engineering and technology for the remainder of EM’s program is essential for its success. While EM’s draft Engineering and Technology Roadmap, issued in April 2007, and the substantially similar finalized version, issued in March 2008, describe in some detail the technical risks and uncertainties and the types of strategic initiatives that are needed to address them,8 the committee judged that there are significant opportunities to improve the Roadmap. Notably the EM roadmap provides no time lines for its initiatives or connections between the initiatives and EM site cleanup milestones. This is rather like drawing a map by simply listing cities without placing them geographically on the map or showing highway interconnections. A much more useful EM roadmap will show when and how the initiatives address technology gaps such as those identified in this study. This could be compared to deciding the detail of how a trip will be taken, by which roads, and on what schedule. The importance of this is to be able to plan the internal as well as external programs needed to address these gaps. Without this planning the result of a great deal of R&D can be a random walk that will not lead to timely new technologies. Once such planning is done, it needs to be communicated to those responsible for supporting the program (DOE management and Congress) and then to the potential community of partners who will participate in helping to execute the necessary R&D and cleanup operations. Implementation of the Roadmap will require effective management and monitoring of the R&D programs to meet the milestones laid out in the Roadmap, or if those turn out to be unachievable, to alter the Roadmap accordingly. EM’s OET does not have the resources necessary to sustain all of the capabilities described in Chapter 3 that are necessary for its R&D work. As a consequence, if EM’s R&D needs are to be met, a large portion of the R&D work that is needed by EM will involve partnering with other organizations. As discussed in Chapter 4, successful partnering will follow a detailed and rigorous process from planning to implementation in order to be successful. Observation 3: The national laboratories at each site have special capabilities and infrastructure in science and technology that are needed to address EM’s longer-term site cleanup needs. The EM roadmap can help establish a more direct coupling of the national laboratories’ capabilities and infrastructures with EM’s needs. 8 For this study the committee was charged to identify “science and technology gaps.” The EM roadmap uses the terminology “technical risk and uncertainty” to describe similar obstacles to EM’s cleanup work.
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges Supporting the DOE sites’ nuclear material production involved cutting-edge science from the beginning of the nuclear age until well into the Cold War era. The national laboratories have continued to produce world-class science, but in doing so they have moved away from their roots in DOE site support. The special capabilities of the national laboratories necessary to sustain longer-term EM R&D, described in Chapter 3, are now mostly supported by non-EM programs (Appendixes D, E, F, and G). The movement away from EM work was clear to the committee during its site visits. As one example, Roberto (2007) stated that Oak Ridge National Laboratory now applies its strengths in science and technology to six major missions: neutron sciences, ultrascale computing, advanced materials, systems biology, advanced energy systems, and national and homeland security. The relation between these missions and EM cleanup needs seems tenuous at best. In its earlier discussion about EM’s need to retain the capabilities of knowledgeable personnel, the committee noted that beginning in about 2001, EM, perhaps inadvertently, sent a message that cleanup does not need new technologies. Approximately coincident with EM’s withdrawal of R&D support, the national laboratories developed new sponsors for cutting-edge science. DOE moved the EM Science Program to the Office of Science (SC) in 2002. After visiting the national laboratories, hearing from SC, and reviewing their literature, the committee concluded that EM-related research is out of the laboratories’ mainstream. Except for a relatively few researchers who are still engaged in EM problems (e.g., tank waste chemistry, new process development) most research personnel consider other scientific areas to be more exciting and higher profile. There is obviously a synergistic relationship between prospects for sustained research funding in a given area and the engagement of researchers in that area. In spite of this current rather negative perception of EM’s place at the R&D table, there are bright spots. The SC’s Environmental Remediation Science Program remains strongly focused on DOE-relevant contaminants and their fate and transport in the subsurface. In July 2008, 12 scientists representing the four national laboratories visited by the committee and OET prepared a detailed report on Scientific Opportunities to Reduce Risk in Nuclear Process Science. The summary of this report states, “Over the last 3 years, DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) has experienced a fundamental shift in philosophy. The mission focus of driving to [site] closure has been replaced by one of enabling the long-term needs of DOE and the nation” (Bredt et al. 2008, p. iii). Renewed national interest in nuclear energy and advanced fuel cycles will provide increasing opportunities for synergy among EM, other DOE offices, and the private sector. Investments by EM for R&D and maintain-
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges ing site capabilities can be leveraged to also support the management of newly generated wastes, while investments in nuclear capabilities and infrastructure by EM’s partners will help support EM’s technology development. By clearly roadmapping its science, engineering, and technology programs EM has the opportunity to become better integrated with the rest of DOE; to reengage the capabilities of the national laboratories, universities, and the private sector; and to maintain access to these capabilities for the duration of the cleanup program. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The Statement of Task directed the committee to provide findings and recommendations, as appropriate, to EM on maintenance of core capabilities and infrastructure at national laboratories and EM sites to address its long-term, high-risk cleanup challenges. In carrying out its task, the committee judged that EM’s Engineering and Technology Roadmap can be a key tool to ensure that core capabilities and infrastructure remain available to EM over the next 30 years of the site cleanup program. The committee provided findings and recommendations in two areas: (1) improving the Roadmap so that it clearly demonstrates the role of R&D in the EM cleanup mission; and (2) establishing R&D programs that utilize national laboratory, site, and private-sector capabilities to bridge the science and technology gaps identified in Chapter 2. Improving the Roadmap FINDING: The Roadmap is an important and much needed tool for guiding DOE headquarters investments in longer-term R&D to support efficient and safe cleanup. FINDING: The current Roadmap describes technical risks in the EM site cleanup program and R&D initiatives to mitigate these risks. However, it does not connect these initiatives to major milestones in the EM cleanup program. RECOMMENDATION 1: EM’s Office of Engineering and Technology should update its 2008 Roadmap to include performance metrics and time lines for accomplishing its R&D initiatives to ensure that results are useful and timely to meet EM’s site cleanup milestones. RECOMMENDATION 2: The DOE Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management should require periodic, future updates of the Roadmap to ensure that it remains current with major mid- to long-term milestones in
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges the cleanup program. At a minimum, the Roadmap should be updated at least every 4 years at an appropriate time to help ensure carryover of programs and their rationales into new administrations. The preceding findings and recommendations are elaborated in Observation 3 earlier in this chapter. FINDING: EM is the DOE office designated to clean up the nuclear materials production sites of the Cold War. Cleaning up these legacy sites nevertheless remains a responsibility for all of DOE and the nation. EM cannot complete its mission without the active cooperation of other DOE offices and federal agencies. The Roadmap can be improved by specifying opportunities for cooperative work with the national laboratories and other DOE and federal agencies. Examples of such leveraging opportunities were detailed in Chapter 4. RECOMMENDATION 3: The EM Office of Engineering and Technology, with support of the Secretary of Energy and the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management, should engage other federal organizations (e.g., Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency) and DOE offices (e.g., Office of Science, Office of Nuclear Energy, Office of Legacy Management) to specify Roadmap intersections with the others’ R&D programs to ensure that opportunities for joint work are recognized and implemented in timely fashion to produce results that are useful to EM. This could be done by convening workshops at which participants exchange information on their cleanup-relevant R&D programs and milestones. The OET did this to a limited extent in preparing the 2008 Roadmap. The workshops could be arranged to provide timely information for periodic updates of the Roadmap according to Recommendation 2. Other mechanisms to identify leveraging opportunities include attending program reviews of other organizations, literature reviews to identify organizations and individuals working on topics of interest to EM, and requests for expressions of interest on federal procurement websites. RECOMMENDATION 4: The DOE Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management and the Office of Engineering and Technology should use the Roadmap as a primary means of communicating EM’s technology needs, R&D planning, and accomplishments within DOE to other federal and state agencies, and ultimately to Congress.
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges FINDING: The scientific and technical state of the art will evolve during the next 30 years of the EM site cleanup program, as will public expectations for the cleanup goals. A robust EM science, engineering, and technology program will be required to keep up with these evolutions, to provide up-to-date bases for EM’s cleanup decisions, and to maintain a skilled workforce. Such a program would consist of short-, medium- and long-term components that address near-term as well as longer-term goals in the program. Presently it appears that only short-term goals are being addressed through contractor-supported R&D and issues that require a longer time line are not being addressed. RECOMMENDATION 5: EM and its Office of Engineering and Technology should include in its Roadmap the overarching themes of (1) maintaining state-of-the-art cleanup objectives as science, technology, and the public’s expectations evolve during the next 30 years; (2) maintaining and distributing up-to-date knowledge resources relevant to site cleanup; and (3) developing a balanced R&D portfolio that addresses short-, medium-, and long-term issues. In the first instance, the Roadmap might identify the organizations responsible for providing technical data and timely R&D milestones to support key EM site cleanup decisions (e.g., the cleanup objective for a waste burial ground, a groundwater plume, or a decommissioned facility). In the second instance, the Roadmap might include objectives for hiring and retaining personnel, and for information archiving, at specified milestone times during the next 30 years. Bridging EM’s Science and Technology Gaps FINDING: The unique chemical, physical, and radiological properties of waste and contamination at the EM cleanup sites and the unique subsurface characteristics of the sites themselves require special capabilities of the sites and their associated national laboratories to sustain long-term R&D for EM’s 30-year cleanup program. These special capabilities include qualified, experienced personnel and facilities for radiochemical, engineering, and field experiments. It is Congress’s and DOE’s responsibility to maintain the national laboratories’ capabilities not only for cutting-edge scientific research, but also for research applied to national problems such as DOE’s Cold War legacy cleanup. In Chapter 2 of this report the committee identified science and technology gaps that may impede EM’s cleanup program. In Chapter 3 the committee identified special capabilities of the sites and national laboratories
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges that will be needed for R&D to bridge the gaps. In Chapter 4 it discussed ways that EM could better leverage its R&D. In roundtable discussions during the final synthesis of its work, the committee noted that a number of scientific disciplines or areas of investigation are important to multiple EM high-priority R&D needs. These were crystallized into nine targeted R&D programs that are described in the next recommendation. RECOMMENDATION 6: The EM Office of Engineering and Technology, with support from the Secretary of Energy and the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management, should lay out in its Roadmap programs that include research in the following: Radiochemistry of EM wastes and contaminants; Long-term performance of cementitious materials; Retrieval technology for high-level waste; Alternative and advanced waste forms and production methods; Rheology of waste sludges and slurries; Long-term behavior of in-ground contaminants; Advanced sensors, detectors, and data transmission technology for subsurface monitoring; Advanced near-surface engineered barrier systems to control contaminant release to the environment; and Surface characterization of solid materials. These research programs are discussed below. Radiochemistry of EM Wastes and Contaminants As noted earlier, the essential uniqueness of the EM cleanup program is processes and legacy facilities and materials containing substantial amounts of a wide variety of radionuclides. Essentially all of the technology gaps described in Chapter 2 involve radiochemistry either as related to radioactive waste or to radioactive contamination in the environment. Some examples of this are as follow: Waste processing: Processing of tank waste at the Savannah River Site (SRS) and Hanford involves a number of processes (solvent extraction, precipitation, and ion exchange) for separating various radionuclides in which the chemistry of the radionuclides is central. Additionally, the effects of radiation on materials during waste processing (e.g., degradation of organic reagents, production of hydrogen by radiolysis) are also important. Subsurface contamination: Radionuclides have leaked or been released into the subsurface at all four sites visited by the committee. The
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges identification and design of remedial technologies requires a firm understanding of the waste and the biogeochemistry of the target contaminants. Deactivation and decommissioning: These activities often involve the need to remove radionuclides from surfaces of nonporous materials or the matrix of porous materials. Chemical or electrochemical techniques are often useful in this application, and creating such techniques requires knowledge of the chemistry of the target radionuclides. There are radiochemistry capabilities at the national labs, academia, and medical institutions. However, (a) the expertise is mostly focused on a relatively narrow set of radionuclides many of which are not relevant to EM, and (b) there is relatively little emphasis on situations relevant to EM such as radionuclide chemistry in alkaline solutions, in groundwater and soils, or on surfaces. EM needs to maintain and expand its base of knowledge and expertise in radiochemistry related to the isotopes at its cleanup sites as a resource for the ongoing cleanup effort. Long-Term Performance of Cementitious Materials Cementitious materials have been or will be used in many applications relevant to EM cleanup program activities concerning high-level waste (HLW) and nuclear material management, groundwater and soil remediation, and facility deactivation and decommissioning. Examples include: Use of engineered9 grouts to fill tanks and pipelines from which waste has been retrieved at the Hanford, Idaho, and Savannah River sites; Use of engineered grouts to stabilize low-activity wastes (LAW) resulting from tank waste processing; Injection of grouts into the subsurface to stabilize legacy waste disposals and provide a barrier to contaminant migration; Use of concrete for surface structures (e.g., pads, vaults) for disposal of LAW, and for waste emplacements (e.g., concrete caissons); and Injection of grouts into the interstices of rubbleized concrete structures (e.g., production reactors, reprocessing plants) to stabilize residual hazardous materials. The long-term performance of cementitious materials is important in all of the above applications. Chapter 2 describes gaps concerning the need for improved understanding of the behavior of cementitious materials that have been mixed with wastes or that are used as barriers to confine radionu- 9 Engineered grout is designed to maintain chemical conditions such as high pH and low Eh that impede radionuclide dissolution and transport.
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges clides. These gaps include WP-1 and WP-2 (grouts to fill nearly empty HLW tanks and stabilize LAW), GS-3 (grouts injected to stabilize waste burial sites or constitute subsurface barrier walls), and DD-3 (decontamination of concrete surfaces).10 The applications in which cementitious materials are used involve a range of natural, engineered, and mixed systems as well as a variety of cementitious materials. The cementitious materials often have common features, such as portland cement as the principal ingredient and degradation driven by water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and certain species normally present in low concentrations. Retrieval Technology for HLW Gap WP-1 described the need for waste retrieval technologies that leave less residual waste in a tank and cost less to implement. This need may be especially acute for tanks containing debris, Hanford tanks that have leaked, and SRS tanks that contain cooling coils. EM relies on large pumps to sluice and remove the bulk of the waste from a tank followed by other devices including minibulldozers, end effectors such as scabblers and high-pressure water jets deployed on crawlers or articulated arms, and devices similar to a carpet steam cleaner to remove most of the remaining waste. All of these devices have antecedents in applications unrelated to EM (e.g., homeland security, improved manufacturing efficiency, advanced battlefield approaches) and substantial relevant R&D continues to be supported by other organizations. However, EM’s retrieval activities have a number of unique features that are unlikely to be taken into account by the R&D of other organizations: high levels of radiation, small access openings, high temperatures, harsh chemicals, and internal tank structures that can obstruct retrieval devices. As a consequence, EM needs a toolbox of technologies that can be applied to any given retrieval challenge, and it needs to continually develop and adapt new technologies as the state of the art advances. Alternative and Advanced Waste Forms and Production Methods The production of borosilicate glass waste forms is the most expensive activity in the EM cleanup program and it drives the duration of the program. Gaps WP-4 and WP-5 in Chapter 2 describe the need to develop advanced waste forms that have higher waste loadings, advanced production methods that have a higher throughput, treatment methods that remove interfering components that either compromise performance or 10 The gap numbers refer to the gaps set forth in Chapter 2.
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges impair production, and alternatives that could avoid the need for high-temperature processes. Other organizations conducting fuel reprocessing have advanced technology for production of borosilicate glass. Alternative approaches (e.g., steam reforming) have been developed for purposes other than radioactive waste management. However, EM’s applications have unique features related to the chemistry of the waste, the presence of large amounts of nonradioactive chemicals, the heterogeneity of the waste due to the multiplicity of processes that produced it, and the need to adapt alternatives to work in a radioactive environment. Rheology of Waste Sludges and Slurries Both Hanford and SRS have millions of gallons of viscous sludge to be mobilized, transported through pipes, stored in holding tanks, and eventually remobilized for processing. Additionally, as discussed in Chapter 3, pilot-scale test facilities require the use of simulants that accurately mimic the physical or chemical properties of the waste. Gaps WP-1 and WP-3 relate to this issue. Failure to accurately predict the flow properties of slurries is a leading cause of process failure. The need to transport and process sludges, and to prepare sludge simulants is not unique to EM nor is the capability to do R&D on these topics. Industries ranging from plastics to concrete routinely transport and process non-Newtonian solids and develop appropriate simulants. Additionally, in the last decade or so, industry and national laboratory researchers have made substantial advances in computational approaches to predicting fluid properties. However, this work does not focus on the specific materials that EM must process, the range of compositions these materials have, and complications such as hydrogen generation resulting from radiolysis. This leads to the need to extend and adapt new knowledge of rheology, chemistry, and radiolysis to the specific materials and processes relevant to EM. Long-Term Behavior of Inground Contaminants Currently available technologies, including EM’s baseline technologies, are insufficient to remediate many of DOE’s groundwater and vadose zone contaminants (gaps GS-1 and GS-2). In addition, DOE’s cleanup plan includes leaving some contamination in the subsurface (gap GS-3). These gaps identify a need to locate, understand, and predict the long-term behavior of inground contaminants as an essential component of the successful application of both barrier and “cocooning” strategies. However, current technologies and approaches to characterizing, conceptually understanding, and modeling subsurface properties and processes are both inefficient and
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges insufficient, and can lead to unreliable predictions of subsurface contaminant behavior. In addition to change in the (geo)chemical form of a contaminant over time, temporal changes in the groundwater system can also affect contaminant mobility. For example, elimination of process water infiltration at the Hanford site has led to a declining water table, thus “thickening” of the vadose zone. Contaminants remaining in this zone now reside in an altered hydrologic and geochemical context. Another example is provided by changes in groundwater chemistry that will also evolve with time. An aqueous solution that was acidic when released may become neutralized through hydrologic dilution and flushing processes or reactions with the aquifer matrix in the subsurface. Saline solutions may become concentrated through evaporation in the shallow vadose zone or diluted through mixing in the saturated zone. These examples illustrate the contextual system changes that can affect the temporal behavior of inground contaminants. An ability to reduce uncertainties in predictions of long-term behavior of inground contaminants through improvement in technologies and approaches to characterizing, conceptually modeling, and predicting the critical hydrologic, geochemical, and biogeochemical processes affecting DOE’s inground contaminants at appropriate spatial scales is important for EM’s cleanup mission. Understanding long-term behavior of DOE’s inground contaminants will also facilitate definition of situations in which monitored natural attenuation can be considered as an appropriate remediation alternative. EM can leverage substantial work in the area of subsurface contaminant behavior done by other organizations. However, adaptation and expansion of new knowledge, technologies, and approaches to address the specific context of EM’s subsurface contaminants and site conditions are needed. Advanced Sensors, Detectors, and Data Transmission Technology for Subsurface Monitoring EM presently does extensive monitoring of air, surface water, and groundwater at ongoing operations and closed sites to determine whether contaminants are being transported and, if so, at what rate. Much of this monitoring involves the costly and time-consuming process of taking samples in the field, transporting them to a laboratory, and analyzing the samples. A better approach relevant to all the groundwater and soil technology gaps identified in Chapter 2 would be to develop sensors that could be placed in the air, surface water, or groundwater and directly measure the contaminants of interest. These results would then be transmitted to data collection and analysis computers. Many organizations other than EM have the same or related needs.
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges Substantial investments are being made in radiation detectors for homeland security purposes such as monitoring cargo. The ability to create a “lab on a chip” raises the possibility of in situ sensors that have great specificity and breadth. Wireless technology for general communication purposes has made great strides in the last decade. However, in these cases there is the need to expand the capabilities of the sensors to cover the range of species relevant to DOE, adapt advanced detector technology to EM’s needs, tailor and integrate the sensors and data transmission technology, and enhance their long-term reliability. Advanced sensors that can measure the isotopic composition of nuclear materials, especially fissile materials, in the presence of a high neutron or gamma-ray background would have applications to the waste processing and facility deactivation and decommissioning gaps identified in Chapter 2. Advanced Near-Surface Engineered Barrier Systems to Control Contaminant Release to the Environment EM has made and will continue to make extensive use of near-surface engineered barriers to reduce water infiltration and contaminant mobilization at closed waste disposal sites and partially demolished or dismantled facilities (reactors, reprocessing plants). Such barriers include multilayer caps, synthetic cocoons, vegetative covers, French drains, subsurface barrier walls, vaults, and reactive barriers. R&D needs related to these barriers were identified in gaps WP-2 and GS-3. Such barrier systems are in use at many industrial and non-EM government hazardous chemical disposal sites, and there is an established service industry to build them. However, the radionuclides that are to be contained by the engineered barriers are unique to EM and it is unlikely that other organizations will perform the R&D in this area, especially as it concerns long-term barrier performance and the design of reactive barriers. Additionally, the design of such barriers is heavily dependent on local climate and subsurface conditions, and EM and its contractors need extensive knowledge of both. Surface Characterization of Solid Materials Addressing a number of technology gaps will require the capability to characterize the surface of solid materials. Examples include the characteristics of recalcitrant deposits in tanks and the surface on which they reside (Gap WP-1), characterization of the surfaces of waste forms and their degradation products resulting from interactions with groundwater (gaps WP-2 and WP-6), the surfaces of soils and engineered barriers with which contaminants may interact (gaps GS-1 and GS-4), and surfaces of equipment or construction material to be characterized or decontaminated (DD-1
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges and DD-3). While the necessary equipment is costly, much of it exists in the national laboratories, industrial research laboratories, and academia, and is made available as a shared resource. However, EM’s applications have two unique aspects. First, EM applications involve some combinations of surfaces and contaminants (e.g., radionuclides, beryllium) that are uncommon in other applications. Second, the level of contamination, especially radioactive, can necessitate that the equipment be dedicated to radioactive operations and left in a hot cell or other location that makes its use for conventional applications impractical. This basic and applied research can benefit from leveraging, but it will also require that EM target its specific needs and applications because of the difficulty and expense of working with EM-relevant materials. OBSERVATIONS ON THE ROLE OF EM’S OFFICE OF ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY In preparing this report, the committee confined its deliberations to the technical issues raised in its task statement. Nevertheless, in the course of our information gathering it became clear that for 20 years EM’s road to introducing new technologies for cleanup has been rocky. EM’s technology development efforts are perceived as having achieved only limited success in providing new technologies to make cleanup “faster, cheaper, and safer” that was the mission of EM’s original Office of Technology Development, established in 1989. Lack of perceived success is manifested by, and probably synergistic with, the rather precipitous decline of funding for EM technology development in the mid-1990s described in Chapter 1 of this report. In the spirit of assisting EM, this committee—which includes some members who participated in previous National Academies’ studies of EM’s technology development efforts—came to some observations that may strengthen future initiatives by EM’s OET to bring new technologies into the EM cleanup effort. The committee’s first finding is that the EM Engineering and Technology Roadmap can be a key tool to ensure that key personnel and infrastructure remain available to EM during the site cleanup program. A corollary to this finding is that a key role for OET is to manage the Roadmap, that is, to ensure that roadmapped R&D stays on track to provide new, reliable, technologies that are appropriate and timely for use by cleanup contractors. Managing the Roadmap also means maintaining it as a living document in which R&D objectives and schedules can be changed as new cleanup challenges are encountered, the scientific state of the art advances, and lessons are learned. Managing the Roadmap includes tracking new technologies from their conception to their implementation to provide an authoritative
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges record of their success and payback on investment; or their failure at some point in their development; or as happens often in technology development, their evolution into other technologies or unplanned applications. Technology development of course requires stable funding not only to retain capable investigators and maintain infrastructure, as discussed in Chapter 3, but also because it usually takes new technologies at least 5 years, often more, to mature, demonstrate their advantages, and show a payoff. To help ensure stable funding for the future, OET needs to evaluate, document, and publicize its previous successes and value added to the EM cleanup, and to continue to do so as new roadmapped objectives are met. By asking this committee to help identify strategic opportunities for leveraging its R&D resources, OET recognizes the importance, and necessity, of coordinating its work with others. Beyond the specific advice provided in Chapter 4, input to the committee and members’ experience lead to the following suggestions: OET’s outreach to form partnerships can best start with other EM offices, especially those that directly manage the cleanup. A first step would be to ensure that the technology initiatives and milestones in the roadmap are in sync with the cleanup, as recommended by this committee. A cooperative effort might be to develop an overall cleanup roadmap to which OET’s technology roadmap can be linked.11 By ensuring that its technology development is directly relevant to the cleanup, OET can establish its role within EM of resolving critical cleanup knowledge and technology gaps, ensuring the maintenance of essential capabilities and infrastructure, and managing the knowledge and technology bases needed to complete the 30-year cleanup mission. OET will have to take the initiative to coordinate (“leverage”) its work with other offices and agencies that are potential partners and funders of relevant R&D. Further, OET will have to demonstrate that it is a good partner for others according to the principles set out in Chapter 4. Shared management of partnerships—for example, the shared management between EM and SC of the EM Science Program (NRC 1997a)—might be a good approach, especially with other DOE offices. OET, with assistance and cooperation from other EM offices, will have to take the initiative to reach out to cleanup contractors to identify needs, time and money constraints, practical solutions, and implementation plans. Contractors are the drivers behind the implementation of new 11 Some initial efforts along this line were the EM Baseline Environmental Management Reports issued in 1995 and 1996 (DOE 1995, 1996) and Paths to Closure (DOE 1998a). Most recent, although it is not a roadmap, is EM’s Report to Congress pursuant to the National Defense Autorization Act for FY 2008 (DOE 2009).
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Advice on the Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Roadmap: Gaps and Bridges technology. One committee member stated “if site contractors don’t identify the research needs and have an interest in the results, then you can develop all the neat technology that you want and it will sit there, unused.” OET would probably need to assign one or more full-time staff to each of the outreach and coordination roles stated above. When they go to work every day, these staff should be working with the sites to understand problems and looking for solutions in industry, academia, or the national laboratories; convening workshops to understand issues; and locating the best authorities nationally and internationally to address the problems. They should be working with the DOE site managers and headquarters staff who oversee site operations to ensure that contractors are aware of the best technologies available and encourage them to use it. They should be working with procurement staff to make sure use of new technology is included in the contracts and that use of the new technology is included as a metric for successful completion of the contract. Staff of the Savannah River National Laboratory, EM’s designated “corporate” laboratory, can assist OET headquarters staff in developing and carrying out scientific and technical initiatives. CONCLUSION The fiscal year 2007 House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Report directed DOE to prepare a technology roadmap that identifies technology gaps in the current DOE site cleanup program. For assistance with its roadmapping activity DOE’s Office of Environmental Management turned to the National Academies, which empaneled a committee to undertake the study described in this report. The committee carried out its task with the intent of assisting and strengthening EM’s roadmapping efforts. At the beginning of the study the committee understood that the Roadmap would be a living document to help plan, justify, and increase the effectiveness of EM’s R&D program in support of its site cleanup mission. The committee found that the Roadmap can be an important tool for enhancing EM’s R&D efforts and has recommended improvements and periodic updates of the Roadmap. We trust that this report with its findings and recommendations will be useful to DOE and to EM.
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