OSWDF and the Disposal Cell Liner Collage

The Portsmouth On-Site Waste Disposal Facility (OSWDF) has been designed to accept the projected five million cubic yards of debris and engineered fill from the demolition of the enormous process buildings and the excavation of impacted site soils. Environmental protectiveness of the OSWDF design met the requirement to be protective for a minimum of 1,000 years post-closure. Three of the 12 planned cells are currently placing waste, the next three are in construction, and the remaining six are being planned. 


EM is tasked with solving the large scale, technically challenging risks and hazardous conditions posed by the world’s largest nuclear cleanup.  Current nuclear cleanup activities are located at 15 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 technicians. The EM portfolio of programs, projects, and activities is the largest and most diverse when compared to other DOE organizations with major contracts and projects.

The Environmental Management Program Protocol was issued on Nov. 6, 2020.  Requirements established by this protocol are designed to achieve the following objectives:

  • EM program plans will be driven by consistent prioritization principles, be informed by validated life-cycle cost and schedule estimates and risk assessments, incorporate the US Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) best practices for program and project management, and be updated to reflect analyses of strategic alternatives.
  • EM budget requests will reflect both principal mission priorities and other EM program and site program activity priorities such as risk reduction, cost-effectiveness, regulatory requirements, etc.
  • Execution activities will establish a contract management framework that results in cost-effective cleanup achieving significant, measurable progress.
  • Results from regular performance evaluation will inform EM’s planning, budgeting, and execution activities, as well as provide needed lessons learned in improving contract incentives and management processes.

This protocol is targeted for EM managers at headquarters and field sites to provide requirements and guidance as to plan, budget, and execute the EM mission with a focus on ensuring performance and mission completion.


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 GAO has removed EM from its High Risk List for projects less than $750 million. EM remains committed to maintaining and strengthening these improvements in project and contract management 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.

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 413.3BProgram and Project Management for the Acquisition of Capital Assets. This includes the “EM Cleanup Project Management Protocol and Implementation Standard for Demolition Projects,” incorporated as Appendix D into the DOE Order 413.3, Chg 7. The purpose of this Order is to:

  • Provide the 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, 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 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 as a management tool.


The Saltstone Disposal Unit (SDU)

The Saltstone Disposal Unit (SDU) projects provide final disposal and containment of the low activity component of Decontaminated Salt Solution (DSS) resulting from the treatment of liquid nuclear waste at the Savannah River Site (SRS) and support the long-term tank closure mission at SRS. After treatment, DSS is mixed with cement to create Saltstone grout (primary waste containment) and is deposited into the Disposal Unit (secondary waste containment). As of April 2023, six small and three mega circular disposal units have been completed. Mega-Saltstone Disposal Units are nominally 375 feet in diameter and 43 feet in height and provide Saltstone grout containment capacity of no less than 30 million gallons. SDU 6 was completed July 2017, 18 months ahead of schedule and $25 million under budget. SDU 7 was completed July 2021, eight months ahead of schedule and $32 million (20%) under budget. The SDU 8/9 Project, as a whole, remains ahead of schedule and under cost. SDU 10-12 Project will be the final units and are currently ahead of schedule and under cost.

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 $30 million or the minor construction threshold being executed for site cleanup with operating expense funding. This includes facility decommissioning and demolition.


The Technetium-99 Contamination Remedial Action Project completed one of the largest soil remedial actions at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) site in Oak Ridge, TN. More than 90,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil were removed and disposed, which equates to over 10,000 truckloads. The project was completed almost 2 years ahead of schedule and $41 million less than the approved total project cost.

The Technetium-99 Contamination Remedial Action Project completed one of the largest soil remedial actions at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) site in Oak Ridge, TN. More than 90,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil were removed and disposed, which equates to over 10,000 truckloads. The project was completed almost 2 years ahead of schedule and $41 million less than the approved total project cost.

As of Jan. 19, 2024, EM’s portfolio of active capital asset projects consists of 21 line-item construction projects and five clean-up projects that have a rough order-of-magnitude cost of $40.1 billion (high end of cost estimate range). This excludes projects that are under the $50 million threshold for reporting in PARS.

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

Active Capital Asset Projects at Each CD Stage (as of Jan. 19, 2024)

CD StageName of CD Stage#
CD-0Approve Mission Need    9
CD-1Approve Alternative Selection and Cost Range    5
CD-2Approve Performance Baseline    0
CD-3AApprove Long Lead Procurement    1
CD-3Approve Start of Construction or Execution  10
CD-4AApprove Start of Operations to Project Completion    1

Time Horizon: Minimize the time horizon and risk to the maximum extent possible. Ideally, execution should take no more than four years starting from CD-3. The EM program considers the following attributes for capital asset projects prior to establishing performance baselines (at CD-2):

  • 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 within the program to take advantage of “leap-frogging” trades (i.e., concrete workers moving from one project to the next).