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Project Management

Workers safely demolished a 175-foot-high exhaust stack at the Hanford Site in southeastern Washington State, a project supported by $420,000 in Recovery Act funds.

Workers safely demolished a 175-foot-high exhaust stack at the Hanford Site in southeastern Washington State, a project supported by $420,000 in Recovery Act funds.


EM is tasked with solving the large scale, technically challenging risks and hazardous conditions posed by the world’s largest nuclear cleanup. The EM portfolio of programs, projects, and activities is the largest and most diverse when compared with other DOE organizations with major contracts and projects. Current nuclear cleanup activities are located at 16 remaining sites covering more than two million acres in 11 states, and employing thousands of Federal and contractor employees, including scientists, engineers, and hazardous waste technician.

EM has been continually improving processes and procedures to more effectively manage the cost and schedule performance of capital asset projects. As a result of these project management improvements, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has removed EM from its High Risk list for projects less than $750 million. EM remains committed to maintaining and strengthening these improvements to reduce EM’s vulnerability to fraud, waste, and abuse and to fully meet the GAO’s criteria for removal from the High Risk list.

Since establishing its capital asset project portfolio beginning in 2005, EM has completed 89 cleanup and construction projects at 27 different sites across the United States. The total cost of these projects was budgeted at $19.5 billion; however EM was able to complete them at a total cost of only $18.4 billion. EM saved the majority of this cost at the Rocky Flats Closure Site, where the project budgeted for $7.5 billion was completed for $6.7 billion. EM has also achieved great successes with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Of the 89 completed capital asset projects, 39 were funded by ARRA. These 39 projects were budgeted to cost $2.0 billion and were completed costing only $1.5 billion, allowing over $430 million to accomplish additional cleanup across the EM portfolio. In May 2014, EM celebrated the successful completion of its ARRA Program, which achieved life cycle cost savings by accelerating cleanup of the Cold War legacy and completing its projects nearly 1 ½ years ahead of the ARRA deadline of September 2015.   

Click for a map of where EM has been or is currently responsible for cleaning up sites across the United States: Sites/Locations


EM capital asset projects are managed in accordance with the priorities of DOE Order 413.3B, Program and Project Management for the Acquisition of Capital Assets. The purpose of this Order is to:

  • Provide the Department of Energy (DOE) Elements with program and project management direction for the acquisition of capital assets with the goal of delivering projects within the original performance baseline (PB), cost and schedule, and fully capable of meeting mission performance, safeguards and security, and environmental, safety, and health requirements unless impacted by a directed change; and,
  • Implement Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circulars to include: OMB Capital Programming Guide, which prescribes new requirements and leading practices for project and acquisition management; A-123, Management’s Responsibility for Internal Control, which defines management’s responsibility for internal control in Federal agencies; and A-131, Value Engineering, which requires that all Federal agencies use Value Engineering (VE) as a management tool.

Click for the list of current EM capital asset projects. Capital assets are land, structures, or major equipment, which are used by the Federal Government and have an estimated useful life of two years or more. A capital asset project is defined as a project with start and end points required in the acquisition of capital assets. Capital asset projects include the environmental remediation of land to make it useful. They exclude activities such as repair, maintenance and surveillance, or minor alterations that are part of routine operations and maintenance functions. Built on interdependent activities that are planned to meet a common objective, a capital asset project focuses on attaining or completing a deliverable within a predetermined cost, schedule and technical scope baseline.

The EM capital asset projects fall into the following two categories:

  • Line-Item Construction Projects: A distinct design, construction, betterment or fabrication activity, effort or project for which Congress will be requested to authorize and appropriate specific funds (capital and/or operating), and where the resulting asset (structure, equipment, facility, product, system or plant) has an estimated useful life of two years or more. A full-scale test asset or other pilot/prototype asset primarily constructed for experimental or demonstration purposes, but planned to continue to operate beyond the experimental or demonstration phase is included in this definition.
  • Cleanup Projects: This category includes capital asset projects greater than $10 million being executed for site cleanup with operating expense funding. This includes the capital phase of environmental restoration (i.e., soil and water remediation) and facility decommissioning and demolition.

As of September 19, 2016, EM’s portfolio of active capital asset projects consists of 16 line-item construction projects and 20 clean-up projects which have a rough order-of-magnitude cost of $51.5 Billion (high end of cost estimate range).

The capital asset projects are managed through various Critical Decision (CD) Stages:

Active Capital Asset Projects at Each CD Stage (as of September 19, 2016)
CD Stage Name of CD Stage  #
CD-0 Approve Mission Need 9
CD-1 Approve Alternative Selection and Cost Range 11
CD-2  Approve Performance Baseline 0
CD-3A Approve Long Lead Procurement 1
CD-3  Approve Start of Construction or Execution 15


The EM program considers the following attributes for capital asset projects prior to establishing performance baselines (at CD-2):

  • Time Horizon: Minimize the time horizon and risk to the maximum extent possible. Ideally, execution should take no more than four (4) years starting from CD-3.
  • Funding Profile: Develop each project’s funding profile to support the optimum project schedule; fully fund when appropriate, and deliver projects quickly.
  • Segregate by Building or Group Similar Types of Facilities: Segregate nuclear from non-nuclear work; utility systems/buildings from general use facilities; fixed price work from cost reimbursable work.
  • Phase Projects: Execute well-defined, lower-risk, complete and usable projects first, allowing additional time to advance designs on more complex and/or technical projects. Project phases should not impede one another.
  • Span of Control: Ensure that the planned scope and pace of work is matched to the capacity and capabilities of the management team.
  • Segregate Projects by Geographic Area: Occasionally, projects involve separate geographic locations with different site conditions, construction workforce environments, and regulatory and political pressures.
  • Workforce Phasing: Phase construction and environmental remediation projects within the program to take advantage of “leap-frogging” trades (i.e., concrete workers moving from one project to the next).