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Department of Energy officials last week marked a historic landmark in Environmental Management’s (EM) mission as they celebrated the close of the Cold War cleanup program’s $6 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Program.
DOE officials recognized the commitment, leadership, and hard work of thousands of workers who helped make Recovery Act work successful.
“I think it’s important to remember the bigger picture. The core of it was that DOE accomplished really, really, really important things,” David Klaus, DOE Deputy Under Secretary for Management and Performance, said of the Department’s Recovery Act work. “When you go to Hanford and you see the pump-and-treat facility, you understand what an important difference it makes on the Central Plateau. We’ve managed to put that facility in place for the protection of the surrounding community.”
Back in 2009, the Los Alamos National Laboratory received $212 million in Recovery Act funding to perform environmental remediation work, including the TA-21 building demolition project, excavation of Material Disposal Area B (MDA-B), the Lab’s oldest waste disposal site, and the installation of 16 groundwater monitoring wells.
The lab used Recovery Act funding to hire 444 workers. About $73 million funded the decontamination and demolition of the buildings and structures at TA-21, which reduced the Lab’s footprint by 175,000 square feet. Efficient contracting and waste segregation saved about $16 million, which went toward additional work at TA-21 and MDA-B.
Built in 1965, the 34,272-square-foot Tritium Science and Fabrication Facility building housed administrative offices and laboratories. Research for the nuclear rocket program known as Project Rover was conducted there.
Due to their age and the purposes they served, many of the buildings and structures at TA-21 were contaminated with asbestos and other chemicals and radioactive materials such as tritium, plutonium and americium. Demolition was not as easy as merely swinging a hammer or a wrecking ball and required thorough preparation and careful decontamination.
Crews segregated waste to minimize disposal costs, salvaged equipment when possible, and recycled 308 tons of “clean” metal — that is, metal with no radiological contamination — before demolition began.
At the ceremony, EM recognized federal project directors and their teams for their Recovery Act contributions by presenting gold, silver and bronze awards. Award categories included project management excellence, contracting excellence, innovation, outstanding outreach and stakeholder engagement, leadership and team building and best lessons learned.
EM supported the Recovery Act’s central goals to stimulate the economy and provide meaningful employment to workers impacted by the recession. The Recovery Act funding was instrumental in helping EM reduce its cleanup footprint from 931 square miles in 2009 — when EM’s Recovery Act Program launched — to less than 300 square miles today. To make this reduction possible, the Recovery Act program completed soil or groundwater remediation of more than 100 distinct release sites and demolished nearly 6 million square feet of contaminated facilities.