US cleanup mission looks to build on 2022 success

13 January 2023

The US Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management achieved most of its goals for calendar year 2022, with all but three of the priorities on its mission "scorecard" for the year complete or partially complete. All six of its primary mission areas have received increased funding under the recently enacted budget for fiscal 2023.

Construction of the New Filter Building, part of the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System at EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, is one of the ongoing projects on the 2022 Scorecard and is one of the infrastructure improvements at the plant to receive funding under the FY2023 budget. (Image: EM)

The office - known as EM - was established in 1989 to address the environmental legacy from five decades of US nuclear weapons production and government-sponsored nuclear energy research, including sites with large amounts of radioactive wastes, used nuclear fuel, excess plutonium and uranium, thousands of contaminated facilities, and contaminated soil and groundwater. It is responsible for cleaning up 107 sites across the country, in what it describes as the largest environmental cleanup program in the world.

EM's CY2022 Mission and Priorities Scorecard details key priorities achieved or exceeded in 2022, including shipments of transuranic waste from the EM Los Alamos Field Office to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico; the demolition of a former uranium process building, marking the most significant cleanup milestone to date at the Portsmouth Site; and issuing the first-ever EM Program Plan with a decision roadmap that will be used to guide the programme over the next 20 years.

"Our scorecard reflects that we delivered on the majority of our cleanup priorities for another year, finishing important work that protects the environment and communities, and enables a concerted focus on safely completing the EM mission sooner and more efficiently," EM Senior Advisor William White said.

EM's budget of USD8.3 million for fiscal 2023, which has now been enacted with US President Joe Biden's signature in late December of the Fiscal Year 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act, is 5% more than the programme received in 2022 and 6% more than proposed in the FY23 President’s Budget Request. All six of EM's primary mission areas - Spent Nuclear Materials & Spent Nuclear Fuel, Transuranic Waste, Soil & Groundwater, Radioactive Tank Waste, Facilities Deactivation & Decommissioning, and Site Services - are to receive funding increases, as well as EM site budgets.

EM said the appropriation will enable it to build on investments, including:

  • Advancing startup and commissioning of the Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste liquid waste treatment system at the Hanford Site in Washington state.
  • Infrastructure improvements at WIPP.
  • Continuing demolition of the Main Plant Process Building at the West Valley Demonstration Project in New York.
  • Shipping over a million tonnes of uranium mill tailings from the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project in Utah for disposal away from the Colorado River.
  • Cleaning up excess facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex.
EM said it will announce its mission priorities for CY 2023 "in the near future".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News