Department of Energy:

Management Changes Needed to Expand Use of Innovative Cleanup Technologies

RCED-94-205: Published: Aug 10, 1994. Publicly Released: Aug 10, 1994.

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GAO reviewed the internal and external barriers that inhibit the use of new and innovative technologies in environmental cleanup.

GAO found that: (1) although the Department of Energy (DOE) has spent substantial funds to develop new cleanup technologies, few technologies are being utilized in DOE cleanup activities; (2) DOE field officials are reluctant to try out new approaches and often choose conventional techniques to clean up their facilities; (3) DOE may be missing opportunities for more effective cleanup because it lacks knowledge about advanced techniques and often follows contractors' recommendations; (4) DOE does not have a well-coordinated and fully integrated technology development program; (5) DOE does not prioritize its research decisions or identify and evaluate all available technological solutions; (6) DOE does not have sufficient interagency coordination to fully discuss and evaluate new and innovative technologies; (7) in January 1994, DOE approved and began implementing a restructuring plan for its technology development programs; (8) DOE needs to instruct its field officials to consider using new technologies; and (9) DOE is working with regulations to achieve greater acceptance of new and innovative technologies.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE established site-specific advisory boards and has taken several steps to strengthen its ties to many stakeholder groups, such as the Environmental Management Advisory Board, the Western Governors' Association, and the State and Tribal Government Working Group. DOE has also formed the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Cooperation Working Group to coordinate data on technology solutions.

    Recommendation: To ensure that decisionmakers are aware of, and fully evaluate innovative technologies to the maximum extent possible, the Secretary of Energy should direct the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management to fully involve regulators and other stakeholders in the decision-making process at the local level for technology selection.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: To increase the use and acceptance of new technologies at the sites, DOE is including regulators and stakeholders as members of technology coordination groups being established at sites around the country. DOE has also implemented formal performance measurements as a way to motivate all involved to ensure consideration and selection of innovative technologies.

    Recommendation: To ensure that decisionmakers are aware of, and fully evaluate innovative technologies to the maximum extent possible, the Secretary of Energy should direct the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management to formally include Office of Technology Development staff early in the process of evaluating and selecting technologies to be used to clean up DOE sites, for example, during the feasibility study and discussions leading to the record of decision.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

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