Oak Ridge seeing returns on investment in new regulatory partnerships

October 11, 2023, 12:09PMRadwaste Solutions
Contaminated soil is loaded in containers for disposal at the Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management said a new regulatory partnership framework established in recent years by the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM), its contractor United Cleanup Oak Ridge (UCOR), the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is ushering in a new chapter of accelerated cleanup at the department’s Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee.

“Our organizations are experiencing returns on the investments we’ve made to better understand the issues and the interests of our partners,” said Erin Sutton, director of OREM’s Quality and Mission Support Division. “It’s leading to decisions and clear direction so our workforce can continue their momentum.”

Cooperative effort: The framework is intended to aid decision-making and approvals needed to conduct cleanup operations at the three major cleanup sites on the Oak Ridge Reservation: the East Tennessee Technology Park, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Y-12 National Security Complex.

Management representatives from each organization—OREM, UCOR, the EPA, and TDEC—serve on a leadership team that sets programmatic goals for the cleanup mission. These goals are communicated to the staff through the emerging issues team, a select group of employees. Designed to identify potential roadblocks and enable resolution on staff-level issues, these teams work cooperatively to resolve regulatory challenges and improve communication so the agencies can make protective, timely decisions.

Working to make continual improvements, the four organizations recently held a joint meeting to share perspectives, discuss potential efficiencies, and plan for major upcoming work that can benefit future projects, DOE-EM said.

The results: According to DOE-EM, the strengthened partnerships and changes to regulatory frameworks are leading to impressive results with the department’s cleanup work in Oak Ridge.

Over the past three years, OREM and UCOR have started and completed the most remedial actions, or restorative cleanup tasks, of any DOE site. Together, the two organizations have completed 61 percent of the DOE’s total remedial actions and started 80 percent of the new actions over that span.

OREM and UCOR have also been responsible for 84 percent of the total volume of soil remediation, 91 percent of debris, 100 percent of sediment, and 98 percent of treated wastewater for the DOE’s completed remedial actions during that time.

Those tallies equate to 385,000 cubic yards of soil, 31,915 cubic yards of debris, 1,234 cubic yards of sediment, and 941,000 gallons of wastewater.

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