EM is dedicated to safely disposing of waste and seeks cost effective and environmentally responsible project execution methods. EM's waste management mission involves planning and optimizing tank waste processing and nuclear materials, including spent nuclear fuel. EM offices that focus on waste management develop policy and guidance and provide technical advice on the tank waste system and nuclear materials. They also provide leadership to planning and executing EM programs for the storage, retrieval, pretreatment, treatment, and final preparation of these materials for disposal and tank closure planning. These EM offices support the EM sites in the execution of this work scope and provide complex-wide integration of the operations and activities associated with these materials.
In fulfilling its mission, EM frequently manages and completes disposition of surplus nuclear materials and spent nuclear fuel. These are not waste. They are nuclear materials no longer needed for national security or other purposes, including spent nuclear fuel, special nuclear materials (as defined by the Atomic Energy Act) and other Nuclear Materials.
The Department has approximately 88 million gallons of liquid waste stored in underground tanks and approximately 4,000 cubic meters of solid waste derived from the liquids stored in bins. The current DOE estimated cost for retrieval, treatment and disposal of this waste exceeds $50 billion to be spent over several decades. The highly radioactive portion of this waste, located at the Hanford Site, Idaho National Laboratory, and Savannah River sites, must be treated and immobilized, and prepared for shipment to a waste repository.
As the Office of Environmental Management (EM) fulfills its mission, waste and materials disposition plays a vital role in the cleanup of radioactive waste and the environmental legacy of nuclear weapons production and nuclear energy research.
Radiological shipments are accomplished safely. Annually, about 400 million hazardous materials shipments occur in the United States by rail, air, sea, and land. Of these shipments, about three million are radiological shipments. Since Fiscal Year (FY) 2004, EM has completed over 150,000 shipments of radioactive material/waste.