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Energy: Department of Energy Environmental Liability (2019-20)

The Department of Energy could potentially avoid spending billions of dollars by developing a program-wide strategy to improve decision-making on cleaning up radioactive and hazardous waste.

Action:

The Department of Energy (DOE) should develop a program-wide strategy that outlines how DOE will direct available resources to address human health and environmental risks across and within sites.

Progress:

DOE agreed with the recommendation. In January 2020, DOE officials said that its Office of Environmental Management (EM) had initiated a strategic options analysis to look at a number of alternatives to current site baselines to address human health and environmental risks across EM’s sites. According to these officials, this initiative will consider risk and life-cycle cost information from each site, as well as recent and ongoing analyses, including analyses of alternatives, program- or waste-specific strategic plans, integrated project team reviews, and cost and risk studies. DOE plans to use this information during its annual EM planning and budgeting efforts and to enable more effective management decision-making analyses. According to DOE, as a first step in this process, each EM site has submitted an initial set of alternatives which the EM headquarters analysis team is reviewing.

Until DOE develops such a strategy that sets national priorities and describes how DOE will direct available resources to address the greatest human health and environmental risks across and within sites, EM cannot be assured that it is effectively setting priorities within and across sites.

Implementing Entity:

Department of Energy
  • portrait of
    • Allison Bawden
    • Director, Natural Resources & Environment
    • bawdena@gao.gov
    • (202) 512-3841