Policy ForumEnvironment

Avoiding Destructive Remediation at DOE Sites

Science  12 Mar 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5664, pp. 1615-1616
DOI: 10.1126/science.1093187

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Public perceptions and regulatory agreements have forced the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to spend tens of billions of dollars for environmental cleanup of relatively low levels of contamination of soil and water within the nuclear weapons complex. Much of this costly remediation has caused significant ecological damage, but has not resulted in corresponding reductions in public health risks. This Policy Forum offers a potential remedy involving continued federal control of the larger DOE lands and cleanup criteria based on long-term protection of ecosystems and public health, rather than criteria based on the protection of hypothetical future site residents. Recent DOE policy to avoid unnecessary environmental damage using a risk-based strategy is briefly described.