Australian news, and some related international items

The Agency Responsible for Securing the U.S.’s Toxic Nuclear Waste Has Its Work Cut Out For It

Gizmodo Mack DeGeurin, July 14, 2022 Scattershot budgets, lack of coordination, stalling research and development, and rapid worker turnover are threatening the Department of Energy’s ability to sufficiently store and secure the nation’s ever-growing trash bin of toxic nuclear waste.

Those were some of the top concerns outlined today by experts and lawmakers during a congressional hearing probing the country’s nuclear waste cleanup response. The hearing, carried out by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, specifically interrogated a series of Government Accountability Office reports highlighting potential deficiencies within the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM).

The DOE’s EM office is responsible for the Herculean task of securing and cleaning up the country’s still-growing excesses of radioactive nuclear waste produced as a byproduct of nuclear weapons research and production dating back to World War II. Those diverse cleanup efforts can vary from addressing contaminated ground soil and groundwater, to decommissioning contaminated facilities, and building facilities to treat radioactive waste. That’s a challenging task under the best circumstance, and the office certainly isn’t operating at its best, according to the GAO.

One of the 2021 GAO reports found growth in DOE’s environmental waste liabilities and overall costs related to addressing cleanup have outpaced how much the agency spends on cleanup. A separate GAO report released that same year found the DOE had reduced research and development funding crucial for discovering new, undiscovered ways to reduce all that nuclear waste. While throwing more funding at the agency might sound like the most obvious answer to that second problem, GAO Natural Resources, and Environment Director Nathan Anderson wasn’t so sure when probed by lawmakers. Large chunks of DOE R&D money, he said, simply aren’t trackable.

“We asked the sites, we asked the labs what [money] was spent and there was a breakdown of internal controls at that point,” Anderson said……..

Anderson was directly involved in the GAO report, which determined the DOE as a whole simply lacks a “comprehensive approach to prioritising cleanup R&D.”……………..

In some cases, waste cleanup teams handling extremely hazardous materials appeared woefully under-equipped. ………………..

Issues around nuclear waste safety don’t simply cease to exist once the dangerous materials are secured underground either. Several of the speakers Wednesday expressed concerns that escalating environmental disturbances arising from climate change could potentially force the EM to reconsider some of its models around proper waste storage. What happens, for example, when an area selected to store hazardous materials is actually unearthed and made unviable due to climate change effects? Anderson said models made accounting for weather patterns 20 years ago may not accurately reflect the realities of climate impacts today……………………………………


July 14, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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