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EM Updates Congress on Nuclear Cleanup Progress in 18th Annual Caucus

March 1, 2012 - 12:00pm


WASHINGTON, D.C. – EM and its cleanup contractors present briefings each year to the U.S. House Nuclear Cleanup Caucus on remediation operations at its major sites across the DOE complex. The briefings are organized by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), who chairs the bipartisan caucus.

For nearly two decades, the briefings have offered members of Congress and their staff, news media and other interested individuals insight into the progress of cleanup of the environmental legacy of the Cold War. EM site managers and their contractor counterparts provide updates on cleanup accomplishments, safety performance, budget scopes, cost savings and plans for accelerating cleanup, among many other topics. Following the
presentations, attendees can ask questions.

The first briefing in this year’s series on Capitol Hill began in February when Senior Advisor for Environmental Management David Huizenga shared an overview on EM’s proposed fiscal year 2013 budget. New to this year’s caucus schedule was an overview of safety across the EM complex led by EM Deputy Assistant Secretary for Safety, Security and Quality Programs Matthew Moury. Other presentations in March and April focus on the Richland Operations Office and Office of River Protection at the Hanford site in Washington state, Oak Ridge site in Tennessee, Portsmouth, Ohio, and Paducah, Kentucky sites, Idaho site and Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

“During my time in Congress I have found that these briefings help educate and update my colleagues and their staff about nuclear cleanup issues,” Hastings said. “The fact is cleanup doesn't happen in Washington, D.C. — it’s accomplished out at our sites in our communities. Hearing unvarnished reports from those on the frontlines at our EM sites is critical for us — and that's what I hope to get out of these briefings.”

In a letter to Huizenga, Hastings said that the briefings provide an opportunity to share information about ways Congress can help achieve shared goals of safe, efficient and timely cleanup of the nation’s defense waste.

Earlier this month, at the Oak Ridge briefing, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), a member of the caucus whose district includes Oak Ridge, emphasized his support for the work at Oak Ridge and the importance of cleaning up the legacy of the Cold War and Manhattan Project,
including demolition of the former K-25, the 44-acre, multi-level uranium-enrichment superstructure, and cleanup of mercury at the site.

“Nationwide, we have a legacy that needs to be cleaned up and it’s not if, it’s when,” Fleischmann said. “I think we really need to keep that focus in all of our affected areas because it’s got to be cleaned up.”

Moments later, EM Oak Ridge Office Acting Manager Sue Cange and URS | CH2M Oak Ridge (UCOR) President and Project Manager Leo Sain discussed details of remediation efforts under way at Oak Ridge.

“The Environmental Management projects across the Oak Ridge complex are very diverse. We typically have about 40 different projects that are in progress at any given time at all three sites,” Cange said of the EM work at East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Y-12 National Security Complex. “We’ve made substantial progress over the years.”

Cange pointed to examples of that progress, including completion of demolition of about two thirds of the facilities at K-25 at ETTP, about 150,000 square feet of contaminated buildings at Y-12 and 38 contaminated buildings at ORNL.

Sain, with UCOR, noted that the prime contractor earlier this year accumulated 1.6 million hours without a lost-work event.

“From Day One, we emphasized the significant importance of working safely, and I will tell you that has really paid off,” Sain said.

He talked about UCOR safety initiatives, such as training all employees on its Safety Conscious Work Environment Policy. Sain also said UCOR is seeking certification in the DOE’s Voluntary Protection Program, a collaborative program designed to promote superiority in safety and health at DOE contractor sites.

Remaining briefings in this year’s series include:

  • Savannah River Site, 8:30 a.m., April 18, 1539 Longworth House Office Building
  • Office of River Protection, 8:30 a.m., April 19, 1539 Longworth House Office Building

The caucuses are among the many opportunities EM uses to engage members of Congress — as well as stakeholders such as environmental groups, Tribal nations, local governments and the greater public — and communicate progress in the environmental cleanup.

EM is committed to involving stakeholders early and often in decision-making regarding the EM program. For example, Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Boards were developed to involve stakeholders more directly in EM cleanup decisions. EM also issues public communications, such as EM Update, a monthly newsletter on cleanup news, timely EM Program Updates and press releases. More communications are available on EM’s public website, which highlights program accomplishments in the “EM Project of the Month.” EM also hosts several social media sites, such as the photo-sharing site, flickr.