Nuclear Cleanup

Difficulties in Coordinating Activities Under Two Environmental Laws Gao ID: RCED-95-66 December 22, 1994

In cleaning up waste sites within its nuclear weapons facilities, the Energy Department (DOE) must comply with two major environmental laws--the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. The first law regulates the management of facilities that treat, store, or dispose of hazardous wastes and the cleanup of hazardous wastes released from such facilities. The second governs the cleanup of inactive waste sites--that is, sites where disposal is no longer occurring. This report discusses (1) what DOE has done to coordinate its cleanup activities under the two acts, (2) what problems with coordination continue and how cleanup activities have been affected, and (3) how DOE plans to improve the coordination of cleanup activities in the future.

GAO found that: (1) in 1988, DOE developed general operating principles for its facilities to use in negotiating interagency agreements with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state agencies overseeing cleanup activities; (2) despite having a general framework for coordinating cleanup activities, DOE and its regulators have had difficulties coordinating schedules under RCRA and CERCLA; (3) many facilities have disagreed over how CERCLA requirements should be incorporated into ongoing cleanup activities under RCRA and the amount of additional paperwork needed to properly document compliance with CERCLA; and (4) DOE plans to issue additional guidance for coordinating activities under RCRA and CERCLA in 1995, work with EPA and state regulatory agencies to improve cleanup strategies, and address how RCRA and CERCLA requirements can be met.

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