By Ashley Huff
Developing a budget for the massive cleanup efforts undertaken by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, or OREM, requires advanced planning and careful prioritization of the program’s near-term and long-term goals. DOE’s vision for a clean future largely depends upon funding designated for the Oak Ridge site by Congress each fiscal year.
Appropriations for Oak Ridge cleanup comprise only a part of the overall budget for DOE’s EM Program, which includes a number of additional sites also dealing with the lingering inheritances of the Manhattan Project. The Oak Ridge site has traditionally fared well both in the president’s request and in the actual appropriations determined by Congress. OREM experienced a $36 million increase in its enacted budget for Fiscal Year 2014, meaning the site received $36 million above what the president even requested for the Oak Ridge cleanup mission. In FY 2015, the site received $46 million above the president’s request. For the current year, OREM welcomed a generous “plus-up” from Congress. Appropriations for FY 2016 were $102 million above President Obama’s request for the program.
“The additional funding of $102 million above the president’s request for FY 2016 has allowed OREM to accelerate progress on spending priorities already well established,” said Karen Thompson, OREM’s branch chief for Planning and Baseline Management Branch, who spoke to the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board at its March 9 meeting on developing the FY 2018 budget.
Thompson provided a table to show the impact recent increases in the current enacted budget have had on FY 2016 work scope. Highlights include a sizable increase in funding for transuranic, or TRU, waste operations, which has been applied toward continued processing of TRU waste debris. Twenty-seven million dollars in appropriations was added to OREM’s budget to begin addressing excess facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex. The boost will be applied to immediate safety concerns and characterization work at seven deteriorating facilities on the two sites. Y-12’s Alpha-4 building, often in the spotlight as an example of the site’s collapsing architecture, will receive a new roof as part of an effort to maintain the structural integrity and compliance of facilities slated for later decontamination and decommissioning, or D&D. The biggest increase for FY 2016, an additional $40 million in D&D funds for cleanup at East Tennessee Technology Park, will continue to support cleanup efforts currently underway at the site.
Thompson’s presentation provided a general overview of fiscal year planning and stages of budget development as well as addressed specific near-term and long-term spending priorities for cleanup operations across ORR sites.
OREM expresses the program’s future milestones as “visions.” Near-term campaigns include:
- Vision 2016—An effort to complete the demolition and removal of all five gaseous diffusion buildings at ETTP by the end of 2016.
- Vision 2020—An initiative to extend Vision 2016 to include cleanup of all facilities at ETTP and prepare to release the land for reindustrialization by the end of 2020.
- Vision 2024—The transition from cleanup activities at ETTP to address the mercury contaminated facilities at Y-12.
Achieving these milestones takes tremendous effort. The nearest goal, Vision 2016, is well on its way to completion. Demolition began at building K-27, the last remaining of the five gaseous diffusion buildings, in February, and OREM expects to finish the operation by the end of the calendar year. “There is still much work to be done across the reservation,” said Thompson, explaining that EM celebrates accomplishments but remains mindful of the whole lifespan of the program and the imagined completion of all its cleanup priorities.
Thompson’s talk occurred as part of an effort to engage stakeholders in shaping those cleanup priorities. The site-specific FY 2018 budget for OREM, which was the main focus of the March 9 presentation, is currently in early development locally, and has not yet been submitted by the Oak Ridge office to EM headquarters for consideration in EM’s overall budget for all of its locations.
“There are opportunities for public input during the budget planning process,” said Thompson. A budget workshop tentatively planned for May 3, similar to the budget workshops organized by DOE for the past two years, will solicit advice from interest groups and leadership within the Oak Ridge community on project prioritization.
ORSSAB is strongly encouraged to make a recommendation on the FY 2018 budget priorities, said Dave Adler, DOE’s Alternate Deputy Designated Federal Officer for Oak Ridge.
ORSSAB will attend the budget workshop in the spring. Following that meeting, the board’s EM and Stewardship Committee will discuss drafting a recommendation on the FY 2018 budget for DOE to consider.
See Thompson’s presentation here: March 9 ORSSAB Budget Presentation.
Note: This story originally appeared in the “Advocate” (April 2016, Issue 62), a publication of the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board. It is published here with permission of the SSAB.