Nuclear Waste Cleanup: Preliminary Observations on DOE's Cleanup of the Paducah Uranium Enrichment Plant: GAO-04-278T

Nazzaro, Robin M.
December 2003
GAO Reports;12/6/2003, p1
Government Document
In 1988, radioactive contamination was found in the drinking water wells of residences located near the federal government's uranium enrichment plant in Paducah, Kentucky, which is still in operation. In response, the Department of Energy (DOE) began a cleanup program to identify and remove contamination in the groundwater, surface water, and soil located within and outside the plant. In 2000, GAO reported that DOE faced significant challenges in cleaning up the site and that it was doubtful that the cleanup would be completed as scheduled by 2010, and within the $1.3 billion cost projection. GAO was asked to testify on (1) how much DOE has spent on the Paducah cleanup and for what purposes, and the estimated total future costs for the site; (2) the status of DOE's cleanup effort; and (3) the challenges DOE faces in completing the cleanup. This testimony is based on ongoing work, and GAO expects to issue a final report on this work in April 2004. Since 1988, DOE has spent $823 million, adjusted to fiscal year 2002 constant dollars, on the Paducah cleanup program. Of this total, DOE spent $372 million (45 percent) for a host of operations activities, including general maintenance and security; $298 million (36 percent) for actions to clean up contamination and waste; and almost $153 million (19 percent) for studies to assess the extent of contamination and determine what cleanup actions were needed. DOE currently projects that the cleanup will take until 2019 and cost $2 billion to complete--nine years and $700 million more than its earlier projection. The $2 billion, however, does not include the cost of other DOE activities required to close the site after the uranium enrichment plant ceases operations, including final decontamination and decommissioning of the plant and long-term environmental monitoring. DOE estimates these activities will bring the total cost to over $13 billion through 2070. DOE has made some progress in cleaning up contamination and waste at Paducah, but the majority of the work remains to be done. For example, while DOE has removed over 4,500 tons of scrap metal, over 50,000 tons of contaminated scrap metal remain. Similarly, while DOE's pilot test of a new technology for removing the hazardous chemical trichloroethylene (TCE) from groundwater at the site had promising results, the technology will not be fully implemented for over a year. DOE's key challenge in completing the Paducah cleanup is achieving stakeholder agreement on the cleanup approach. For example, differences between DOE and the regulatory entities--the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency--over the cleanup scope and time frames resulted in an almost 2-year dispute, from June 2001 to April 2003, that disrupted progress. All three parties are working to develop an accelerated cleanup plan, but continued cooperation will be required in order to advance the cleanup.


Related Articles

  • Nuclear Waste Cleanup: DOE's Paducah Plan Faces Uncertainties and Excludes Costly Cleanup Activities: RCED-00-96.  // GAO Reports;4/28/2000, p1 

    In 1988, radioactive contamination was found in the drinking wells of homes near the government's uranium enrichment plant in Paducah, Kentucky. In response, the Department of Energy (DOE) connected local residences to municipal water supplies and began a cleanup program to identify and remove...

  • Uranium Enrichment: Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund Is Insufficient to Cover Cleanup Costs: GAO-04-692.  // GAO Reports;7/2/2004, p1 

    Decontaminating and decommissioning the nation's uranium enrichment plants, which are contaminated with hazardous materials, will cost billions of dollars and could span decades. In 1992, the Energy Policy Act created the Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund (Fund) to pay...

  • DOE Awards Oak Ridge Cleanup Contract To URS-CH2M Hill Team.  // Energy Daily;5/2/2011, Issue 83, p3 

    The article reports on the awarding by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) of a five-year contract to URS Corp. and CH2M Hill in April 2011 to complete the cleanup operations at its former uranium enrichment complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. URS-CH2M Oak Ridge LLC is likewise contracted to...

  • 10-year cleanup is aired by DOE.  // ENR: Engineering News-Record;06/23/97, Vol. 238 Issue 25, p13 

    Reveals that the US Department of Energy has released an initial draft of its proposed plan to clean up former nuclear weapons production sites by 2006. Proposed budget for the cleanup plan; Major cleanup sites; Productivity improvements needed to meet the deadline regarding funding.

  • Startup Testing at IWTU Suspended June 16.  // Nuclear Waste News;7/13/2012, Vol. 32 Issue 13, p8 

    The article reports that startup testing at the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) at the U.S. Department of Energy site in Idaho has been suspended on June 16, 2012 to carry out an evaluation of performance of system and component operation.

  • A glowing report on cleaning up of atomic debris. Champy, Jim // San Diego Business Journal;6/10/96, Vol. 17 Issue 24, p13 

    Presents an account of the Department of Energy's clean up of radioactive plutonium left over from the atomic weapons building at the Hanford Nuclear Reservations in the state of Washington. History and background of the building; Scope of the cleanup; Number of people employed for the cleanup;...

  • Department of Energy Announces Cleanup of Nuclear Waste Sites.  // Hazardous Waste/Superfund Alert;8/8/2011, Vol. 33 Issue 15, p6 

    The article reports on the announcement made by the U.S. Department of Energy regarding the completion of the cleanup of three more nuclear waste storage sites by the end of 2011 in which the waste removed from the sites is brought to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant located outside of Carlsbad,...

  • Columbia river clean up accelerates.  // Modern Power Systems;Jan2003, Vol. 23 Issue 1, p5 

    Reports on the negotiation of the U.S. Department of Energy with several companies competing for contracts for the clean up of its nuclear site in Washington. Amount of the contract; Remediation of the plutonium production area; Demolition of buildings in the production and fuel manufacturing...

  • Planning for closure at Rocky Flats. Murphy, Larry T. // AACE International Transactions;1998, p01.1 

    Focuses on the difficulties faced by concerned organizations in the clean up of the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site in Rocky Flats, Colorado, a former part of the United States Department of Energy nuclear weapon complex. Agencies responsible for the environmental clean up; Estimated...


Read the Article

Other Topics