The Challenge Ahead: Long-Term Stewardship Will Be Needed at the Nuclear Weapons Complex to Protect Health and the Environment

By Probst, Katherine N.; McGovern, Michael H. | Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

The Challenge Ahead: Long-Term Stewardship Will Be Needed at the Nuclear Weapons Complex to Protect Health and the Environment


Probst, Katherine N., McGovern, Michael H., Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy


No matter how much money the U.S. Department of Energy spends to address radioactive and hazardous contamination at its former nuclear weapons production sites, some hazards will remain. As a result, a program of long-term stewardship will be needed to protect human health and the environment for future generations.

The Problem

For nearly five decades, DOE and its predecessors engaged in a highly secretive, complex, and massive endeavor to fabricate nuclear weapons. This effort required enormous facilities, material and energy inputs, and human labor. The "weapons complex" consisted of nuclear defense, nuclear energy, and research installations. These facilities were scattered across the United States at large federal reservations and at smaller commercial sites. Some of these facilities housed nuclear weapons research, production, and testing activities. Others focused on civilian nuclear energy research and development activities. Huge laboratories were dedicated to nuclear research.

In the rush to produce the materials, components, and devices necessary to manufacture thousands of nuclear weapons, DOE paid scant attention to the environmental consequences of its actions. Waste materials from research and production activities were often buried onsite in shallow earth trenches or placed in settling ponds. At many sites, tremendous volumes of soil and groundwater were contaminated with hazardous and radioactive substances. Large volumes of poorly managed wastes leaked from damaged containment structures, and many aging facilities harboring highly radioactive materials deteriorated. For years, there was little information publicly available about these problems and little external regulation of DOE's environmental management activities.

With the winding down of the Cold War in the late 1980s, weapons production operations ceased. Largely because of increased media attention as well as litigation ending DOE's immunity from federal environmental enforcement, DOE turned its attention to the growing health, safety, and environmental concerns linked to past nuclear weapons production activities. Now, almost 15 years later, a third of DOE's budget goes to its Office of Environmental Management. At $6 billion, the annual Office of Environmental Management budget is twice as big as total estimated public and private expenditures on nonfederal Superfund sites and just $1 billion less than the budget for the entire U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

DOE's Office of Environmental Management is faced with the Herculean task of cleaning up contamination, wastes, nuclear materials, and contaminated structures at more than 100 sites in 30 states around the country. It will take decades before the department completes cleanup activities at all the sites in the weapons complex. The total price tag has been estimated at $150 billion to $200 billion, with most of this money going to five sites: Hanford, Savannah River, Rocky Flats, Oak Ridge, and the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory.

Describing the Office of Environmental Management program as a cleanup program, however, is something of a misnomer. No matter how much money is spent, some hazards will remain at more than two-thirds of the sites. Many of the sites will be home to waste storage and disposal facilities. The lack of proven technologies to address radioactive contamination, including contaminated soil and groundwater, also ensures that hazards will remain at these sites for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. DOE will not be able to walk away from these sites, nor from its past contamination problems. A program of longterm stewardship will therefore be needed at the majority of the sites in the weapons complex.

Long-Term Stewardship

Broadly speaking, stewardship refers to physical controls, institutions, information, and other mechanisms needed to ensure protection of people and the environment, both in the short and the long term, after the cleanup of the weapons complex is considered complete.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Challenge Ahead: Long-Term Stewardship Will Be Needed at the Nuclear Weapons Complex to Protect Health and the Environment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.