The costs of delaying remediation on human, ecological, and eco-cultural resources: Considerations for the Department of Energy: A methodological framework

Joanna Burger, Michael Gochfeld, David S. Kosson, Kevin G. Brown, Lisa S. Bliss, Amoret Bunn, James H. Clarke, Henry J. Mayer, Jennifer A. Salisbury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Remediation and restoration of the Nation's nuclear legacy of radiological and chemical contaminated areas is an ongoing and costly challenge for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). For large sites, such as the Hanford and Savannah River Sites, successful remediation involves complex decisions related to remedies, end-states, timing, and sequencing of cleanup of separate and related contaminated units within a site. Hanford Site cannot clean up every unit simultaneously due to limits in funding, personnel, and technology. This paper addresses one of the major considerations - the consequences of delaying remediation of a unit on different receptors (e.g. people, ecological, and eco-cultural resources), using the DOE Hanford Site as a case study. We develop a list of attributes that managers should consider for successful remediation, examine how delaying remediation could affect workers, the public and ecological resources (including water resources), and use some examples to illustrate potential effects of delays. The factors to consider when deciding whether and how long to delay remediation of a unit include personnel, information and data, funding, equipment, structural integrity, contaminant source, and resource vulnerability. Each of these factors affects receptors differently. Any remediation task may be dependent on other remediation projects, on the availability of transport, containers, interim storage and ultimate disposition decisions, or the availability of trained personnel. Delaying remediation may have consequences for people (e.g. workers, site neighbors), plants, animals, ecosystems, and eco-cultural resources (i.e. those cultural values that depend upon ecological resources). The risks, benefits, and uncertainties for evaluating the consequences of delaying remediation are described and discussed. Assessing the advantages and disadvantages of delaying remediation is important for health professionals, ecologists, resource trustees, regulators, Tribal members, recreationists, fishermen, hunters, conservationists, and a wide range of other stakeholders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1054-1064
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


  • Costs of delay
  • Ecological and eco-cultural consequences
  • Human consequences
  • Radiological
  • Remediation
  • Sequencing


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