2005 CPEO Military List Archive

From: lsiegel@cpeo.org
Date: 5 Oct 2005 19:20:26 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] GAO on Rocky Flats (CO)
Nuclear Cleanup: Preliminary Results of the Review of the Department of
Energy's Rocky Flats Closure Projects

Government Accountability Office
September 22, 2005

For about 40 years, the Department of Energy's Rocky Flats site, near
Denver, served as a production facility that made plutonium triggers, or
"pits," for nuclear weapons. That role resulted in radiological and
chemical contamination of many of the site's buildings and its soil and
water. Cleanup of the site, which commenced in 1996, has been a
monumental undertaking. The cleanup is being conducted under the Rocky
Flats Cleanup Agreement, which is the legally binding agreement that
provides the framework for the cleanup effort. The cleanup agreement
specifies the roles of the Department of Energy (DOE) and the two
regulatory agencies for the site: the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
(Colorado). In February 2001, when GAO last reported on DOE's project to
clean up and close the Rocky Flats site, the project was slightly over
cost and behind schedule. The vast amount of work remaining to be done
at that time, along with various major challenges facing the cleanup
contractor, made it doubtful that the contractor could achieve its
December 2006 closure goal. But now the contractor hired by DOE
(Kaiser-Hill Company, L.L.C.) plans to complete the physical cleanup
portion of the work early and under budget. The regulatory agencies'
final decision on the adequacy of the cleanup will take another year or
so after completion of the physical cleanup, and the majority of the
planned wildlife refuge will not open to the public for at least 5
years. In this context, Congress asked us to determine (1) the key
factors that contributed to the progress of the Rocky Flats cleanup; (2)
when the Rocky Flats cleanup is scheduled to be completed, and at what
total cost, including long-term stewardship costs; and (3) what measures
DOE and the regulatory agencies are taking to determine that the cleanup
will achieve a level of protection of public health and environment
consistent with the cleanup agreement.

According to DOE, the contractor, and the regulatory agencies, four key
factors contributed to the cleanup's progress to date. These key factors
are as follows: (1) The cost-plus-incentive-fee contract provided
Kaiser-Hill with strong profit incentives to complete the work quickly
and safely; (2) EPA's Superfund accelerated cleanup process allowed
cleanup actions to proceed much more quickly and collaboratively than
would have happened under the traditional Superfund process; (3) A
confluence of site-specific events--climatic, geologic, chemical, and
structural--aided the cleanup effort by confining both its scope and its
complexity; and (4) The major challenges facing the contractor at the
time of our last report have been resolved, except for safety, which has
since improved but nonetheless will remain a concern as long as work
goes on at the site. The contractor plans to finish the physical
completion portion of the cleanup at Rocky Flats in late October 2005.
"Physical completion" means that the contractor has met all contractual
requirements, which include, for example, removing all buildings, waste,
vehicles, and signage from the site and remediating contamination to the
appropriate levels. After the contractor finishes its cleanup work, a
number of regulatory and land-transfer events must occur before the
Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge will open to the public. The
cleanup project will cost about $7 billion (since 1995), according to
DOE, which includes an approximately $510 million incentive fee to the
contractor. DOE estimates additional long-term surveillance and
maintenance costs of at least $7 million per year; this estimate is for
fiscal years 2007 through 2011, although some of these costs may
continue indefinitely. For contractor employees at Rocky Flats, DOE's
pension and postretirement benefits liability in fiscal year 2004
amounted to nearly $100 million. DOE expects to continue paying between
$64 million and $110 million per year for such benefits; the actual
amount paid will fluctuate within this range depending on market and
actuarial conditions and is expected to decrease after about 25 years.
This estimate of benefit costs does not include up to an additional $15
million expected to be funded to cover additional payments for
contractor employees whose benefits would be affected by the cleanup's
physical completion a year ahead of schedule. Additional costs
associated with Rocky Flats include pending legislation that proposes
authorizing up to $10 million to purchase some privately held mineral
rights at Rocky Flats, and a growing number of claims under the Energy
Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000 for
harmful beryllium exposure at the site. Numerous measures have been and
are being taken to provide assurance to DOE and the regulatory agencies
that the cleanup will achieve a level of protection of public health and
the environment consistent with the cleanup agreement. These measures
include EPA's and Colorado's regulatory approvals of interim and final
cleanup actions, DOE-initiated cleanup verification reviews, and
independent reviews by scientific organizations and contractors.

For the original summary and links to the entire report, go to


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918
Military mailing list
  Prev by Date: [CPEO-MEF] Defense Department perchlorate report
Next by Date: [CPEO-MEF] Department of Transportation builds at DC Navy Yard site
  Prev by Thread: [CPEO-MEF] Defense Department perchlorate report
Next by Thread: [CPEO-MEF] Department of Transportation builds at DC Navy Yard site

CPEO Lists
Author Index
Date Index
Thread Index