The Office of Environmental Management (EM) supports the Department’s Strategic Plan to complete the environmental remediation of legacy and active sites, while protecting human health and the environment by completing environmental remediation of legacy and active Cold War sites. The EM program was established in 1989 and is responsible for the cleanup of millions of gallons of liquid radioactive waste, millions of cubic yards of solid radioactive wastes, thousands of tons of spent (used) nuclear fuel and special nuclear material, huge quantities of contaminated soil and water, disposition of large volumes of transuranic and mixed/low-level waste, and deactivation and decommissioning of hundreds of excess facilities. This is the largest cleanup program in the world brought about from five decades of nuclear weapons development and production and Government sponsored nuclear energy research.
DOE’s Office of Environmental Management directs the cleanup of this contamination across the DOE complex at sites located throughout the United States. These sites contain nuclear reactors; chemical processing buildings; and plants, laboratories, and maintenance facilities once used to manufacture thousands of nuclear warheads. Cleanup activities include treating and permanently disposing of millions of gallons of radioactive and chemical waste stored in large underground tanks; disposing of spent nuclear fuel; removing contaminated soil; treating contaminated groundwater; packaging and shipping solid wastes infused with synthetic radioactive elements like plutonium and americium for permanent disposal to a deep geologic repository; and eliminating excess facilities, which may include decontaminating, decommissioning, deactivating, and demolishing obsolete structures or a combination of these activities.
In 1989, cleanup was required at 107 sites with a total area of 3,125 square miles across 35 states. At the end of FY 2011, the remaining cleanup covers 17 sites with a total area of 318 square miles across 11 states.