Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter December 2000


DOE Releases Long-Term Environmental Stewardship Study

by Peter Strauss and Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' December 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On October 31, DOE released its draft study on long-term environmental stewardship, in accordance with a 1998 Settlement Agreement with the NRDC and other plaintiffs, including Tri-Valley CAREs.

Long-term stewardship (LTS) is generally defined by DOE as the physical controls, institutions, information and other mechanisms needed to protect people and the environment at sites where the Department has "completed" its active cleanup efforts. The DOE's stewardship concept includes such things as land-use controls, long-term monitoring, maintenance and information management over long periods of time, so long as there are significant hazards left in the ground.

Community groups have understood for some time that many DOE sites will not be cleaned up, in the usual sense of the word, even after DOE declares it has finished with remediation measures. For example, how do you "clean up" after many hundreds of nuclear bomb tests in Nevada? At numerous DOE sites, dangerous radioactive and chemical contaminants will remain in the soil and groundwater for hundreds and even thousands of years. Moreover, in many cases, "remedies" chosen during active cleanup may include landfills containing wastes with radioactive half-lives in the thousands of years. These dumps, even the newly-lined ones, will fail after 50 years or so. They, too, are therefore future candidates for long-term stewardship. In sum, the unprecedented magnitude and complexity of the environmental mess caused by nuclear weapons activities has motivated groups to urge DOE to grapple with issues of long-term environmental stewardship.

On the other hand, how can communities ensure that DOE will aggressively remediate all pollutants that can be cleaned up? How do we make sure DOE does not merely "transition" sites into long-term stewardship, which essentially baby-sits the wastes, when a little more money and effort applied today would result in a permanent remedy? What is the appropriate interface between active cleanup and long-term stewardship? How will the public be brought into decision-making in a meaningful way over the long haul?

First, the draft study is very readable and comprehensive. It lays out the very complex issues involved in the long-term stewardship program and shows the reader the choices facing DOE. However, the study lacks a community-based perspective -- which differs from the agency-based analysis, and can contribute a whole different set of values, insights and recommendations to the long-term stewardship effort.

While it states the problems very well, the DOE' draft study only suggests paths and policies needed to establish this program that will affect many generations to come.

Below are some of Tri-Valley CAREs' comments on the Draft Long-Term Stewardship Study. Feel free to use them as "talking points" for the Dec. 14th public meeting or incorporate them into your written comments. (See below for details.)

  • THE HIGHEST PRIORITY SHOULD BE PLACED ON SELECTING REMEDIES THAT PROTECT THE LONG-TERM SAFETY AND HEALTH OF THE COMMUNITY AND OF THE ENVIRONMENT SURROUNDING THE DOE FACILITY. All aspects of establishing, maintaining and funding long-term stewardship activities should be considered during the remedy selection process that is part of active cleanup. Wherever possible, we prefer that DOE facilities are cleaned up to a level that allows unrestricted use and avoids the need for long-term stewardship. Where cleanup to such a level is not practical due to current technical constraints, we want commitments inserted into final remedy decision documents detailing the stewardship plan and funding.

  • DOE SHOULD DEVELOP A PROGRAM TO LOOK FOR SOLUTIONS THAT WOULD MINIMIZE OR ELIMINATE THE NEED FOR LONG-TERM STEWARDSHIP. We are aware that some contaminants will have to be "stored" in place or at the site for long periods of time. This may be true for many radionuclides and some chemicals, often when they are in the form of dense-non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs). We also believe that once decisions are made to leave a contaminant in place, it is difficult to get funding to monitor it while simultaneously continuing research on how the contaminant could be safely treated. Still, developing a remedial treatment that destroys a chemical contaminant, for example, should remain a high priority, as it avoids the need for long-term stewardship measures. We propose that DOE form a dedicated program that keeps an eye towards the future, and continually looks for solutions to these problems. In short, DOE should continue to develop new and better remediation technologies for sites that are in the long-term stewardship mode, and then to move them back to active cleanup when it is technically feasible to do so.

  • WE STRONGLY ADVISE THAT DOE DEVELOP A MECHANISM WHERE LOCAL COMMUNITIES WILL BE INVOLVED IN LONG-TERM STEWARDSHIP DECISIONS. This should include involvement in initial long-term stewardship activities and any changes to those activities that may occur as a result of re-evaluation or modification of the remedy. The community should also be involved in periodic reviews, such as the five-year review cycle under CERCLA (the Superfund law) to re-evaluate the effectiveness and performance of long term stewardship activities. Additionally, independent technical expertise should be provided to communities to assist them in wading through the many technical documents that form the basis for key decisions.

  • DEVELOP CONTINGENCY PLANS AT THE TIME CLEANUP DECISIONS ARE MADE. The National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council recommended that "DOE should plan for uncertainty and fallibility" of some aspects of the long-tern stewardship program; including developing plans "to maximize follow-through on phased, iterative and adaptive long-term institutional management approaches at sites where contaminants remain." We believe that these plans should be developed concurrent with cleanup decisions, and should be periodically revisited.

  • DEVELOP FIRM FUNDING COMMITMENTS FOR LONG-TERM STEWARDSHIP. Funding for stewardship activities must be adequate. When the final remedy is agreed upon at a site, full funding for stewardship activities should be defined, including the role of the parties who will manage the funding and the funding sources.

  • PERIODICALLY RE-EVALUATE THE REMEDY. DOE (or subsequent federal managers) should implement a systematic process for re-evaluating and if needed, modifying existing LTS activities to ensure that developments in science, technology and performance are incorporated. This reevaluation should consider the following: changes in health standards associated with contaminants that are left in place, changes in technology that were not available at the time when initial cleanup decisions were made but if implemented would eliminate the need for long-term stewardship activities, and performance of the remedy in place. The community should be involved in these re-evaluations.

  • A RELIABLE, UP-TO-DATE RECORD MANAGEMENT FACILITY ACCESSIBLE TO THE COMMUNITY IS REQUIRED. DOE must fully characterize, document, and disclose all environmental contamination at its sites in case failures occur. At a minimum, DOE needs to develop a record management system that will always be accessible at or near the location of the stewardship activities.

  • DEVELOP POLICY AND REGULATIONS ON PROPERTY TRANSFERS. One of the more difficult aspects of this program is deciding how to handle property transfers and the obligations of DOE and the new owner after the transfer. We strongly advise that this be addressed as policy and specific regulation, which contains the premise that DOE is responsible for a site in perpetuity unless the new owner has altered the property (e.g., drills through a landfill), violated a legal deed restriction, or contaminates the environment.

  • AVOID TRANSFERRING OR RELOCATING HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES. This practice adds the complication of transportation and reclamation of the former site, while still maintaining the burden of long-term stewardship activities. We are also concerned that some locations with lax standards could become the dumping ground for many long-lived hazardous materials.

  • ALL CLEANUPS THAT FALL UNDER THE LTS PROGRAM SHOULD USE THE CERCLA REGULATORY FRAMEWORK. There are many cleanups conducted pursuant to non-CERCLA authority. We propose that DOE take the initiative to form a consistent regulatory mechanism for the LTS program, and that CERCLA is the method that provides the most opportunity for community involvement in decision making.

  • WHEN CONTAMINANTS ARE LEFT IN PLACE, DOE SHOULD COMPENSATE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS. Compensation to fund protective equipment, emergency preparedness, and sophisticated record keeping should be available to all local governments where LTS activities fall under their jurisdiction.


We invite your comments and perspectives, and we hope you will participate in this and future opportunities to hold DOE's feet to the fire on key environmental issues.



PUBLIC MEETING NOTICE

"Stakeholder Workshop" to discuss the DOE's Draft Long-Term Environmental Stewardship Study

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14
6:00 - 8:00 P.M.
ARGENT HOTEL, 50 THIRD STREET, SAN FRANCISCO
(just one block south of the Montgomery BART station)

DOE invites public comment on the Draft Study. All comments will be captured and considered, whether they are provided at the "Stakeholder Workshop" or by email, mail or fax.

The Draft Study has been prepared in accordance with the terms of a 1998 Settlement Agreement that resolved a lawsuit brought against DOE by the Natural Resources Defense Council and 38 other plaintiffs, including Tri-Valley CAREs.

The goal of the Draft Study is to inform decision-makers and the public about the long-term environmental stewardship issues and challenges facing DOE and potential options for addressing such issues.

Copies of the Draft Study can be requested by telephone at 1-800-736-3282. The Draft Study and its supporting technical documents also are also available at www.em.doe.gov/lts.

Comments can also be submitted during the public comment period (which ends December 15, 2000) to Steven Livingstone, Project Manager, Office of Long Term Stewardship, (EM-51), Office of Environmental Management, U.S. Department of Energy, P.O. Box 45079. Washington, D.C. 20026-5079, phone: 202-586-9280.

Comments may also be submitted to Stephen.Livingstone@em.doe.gov or by fax to 202-863-7036.

Print Bites: All the News That Fits to Print

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' December 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

  • Taking the Initiative. On November 13, even as the U.S. debated who had won its presidency, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed the two nations negotiate drastic cuts in their long-range strategic nuclear weapons. Putin had previously proposed that each nation limit its long-range arsenal to 1,500 weapons-a number the U.S. summarily rejected as too low. Now, Putin has put himself on the record as favoring an even deeper cut. Will the U.S. please wake up and just say yes?

  • It's the Mission, Stupid. Six top positions at Livermore Lab are now vacant, more at one time than anyone can recall in the history of the Lab. Robert Kuckuck, Livermore Lab's second-in-command, announced his retirement in Nov. Already vacant are 4 of 10 Associate Director positions and the director's post for LLNL's University Relations Program. Still, remaining Lab managers tout NIF and nuclear weapons as the wave of the future. That wave has passed, Livermore. It's high time - at long last - to transition to a socially constructive, environmentally friendly "Green Lab" at Livermore.

  • Speaking of Mission. On Nov. 15, the regents of the University of California voted to negotiate contract extensions for the 3 DOE labs it manages-Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Lawrence Berkeley. According to U.C., the contracts will be "fast-tracked" and may be completed by the end of the year. No mention that the mission of Livermore Lab is part of the management contract. No discussion of any meaningful changes. No open process. Just more of the same, which will beget more of the same. Shame.

  • Clinton Gets One Right. The CIA wanted it. The Senate Intelligence Committee marked it up in a secret session. Tri-Valley CAREs railed against it in the Nov. edition of Citizen's Watch. "It" is legislation that could have meant prison terms for whistleblowers or anyone else "leaking" information the government deemed secret. Written overbroadly, the bill would have become, in essence, the first U.S. "official secrets act." Existing law makes it a crime to release classified information that might expose a foreign agent, assist a foreign power or threaten national security. The new bill would have greatly expanded the kinds of secrets for which criminal penalties might be imposed. Press reports indicated Clinton was poised to sign it into law. And then, on Nov. 4, he... vetoed it. Hooray, a small cheer rises up from the populace. (Well, at least a sigh of relief.)

  • Advice and Dissent. Recently, the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) finalized another in a long line of under-skeptical reviews of NIF. Yawn. However, three SEAB members livened up the process by offering a written dissent. Instead of racing ahead with construction of all 192 laser beamlines, they reasoned, why not hit the pause button upon completion of the first "bundle" (consisting of 8 beams) in 2004. Those beams should then be tested to determine whether they met NIF's original performance criteria, said the three members. However, the majority on the SEAB was unwilling to seriously contemplate any pause in construction. The board voted to transmit its report "as is" to Secretary Richardson-along with a letter outlining the dissenting view.

Diversity Training to be Held in New Year

by Martha Priebat
from Tri-Valley CAREs' December 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Start off the new millennium with this very special day of training. Increase your sensitivity to the ways that lack of understanding of cultural differences may interfere with working with others of differing backgrounds. Learn new ways to dismantle institutionalized racism, sexism, ageism and other "isms."

On Saturday, January 27, Tri-Valley CAREs is sponsoring a day-long workshop on this important topic. The diversity training will take place at our offices at 2582 Old First St. in Livermore, from 9:30 AM - 4 PM with a break for a potluck lunch. Bring something to share for lunch.

The benefits of holding this workshop were discussed at our annual strategic planning retreat, and we are now ready to do it! We have arranged for Clifford Jones and Kathleen Herron of Technical Assistance for Community Services in Portland, Oregon to spend the day with us and provide this training. They are dynamic trainers and promise a vital experience.

The training is organized by the Tri-Valley CAREs' board, and is open to all of the group's members, volunteers and supporters. Need more information? Call Tri-Valley CAREs' office (925) 443-7148 or Martha Priebat (925) 846-3728.

Citizen's Alerts
Community Calendar

Saturday, December 9
Community Health Training
"Radiation, Risk & the Community"
10 AM - 3 PM, City Council Chamber
3575 Pacific Ave., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 to RSVP

This special training for community members will answer questions about the health risks of radiation. You will end the day better equipped to be a resource to your neighbors-and you will also become more able to participate in public health decision-making. The workshop presenters include Dr. Marvin Resnikoff on radiation and risk, Dr. Peggy Reynolds on health studies related to Livermore Lab and the community and Diane Quigley on community involvement.

Thursday, December 14
Public Meeting on the DOE's Long-Term Stewardship Study
6 - 8 PM, Argent Hotel
50 Third St., San Francisco
(800) 736-3282, (202) 586-9280 (DOE)
(925) 443-7148 (TVC)

DOE invites the public to comment on the draft study. Please see article on the public meeting notice above.

Thursday, January 4
Tri-Valley CAREs' mailing party
7 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs' offices
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for directions

Welcome to 2001! Come and help us get our January newsletter ready for mailing. Plenty of labels, good conversation and leftover holiday treats or other goodies.

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