Idaho State Journal
Thursday, November 30, 2000
Time to put money into science programs
For over half a century, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental
Laboratory workers have contributed to America's nuclear and
energy missions. Today, the INEEL is applying science and engineering
technology to support the nation's environmental cleanup, energy,
nuclear technology and national security needs. As the INEEL
cleanup proceeds, we always ask ourselves: "Is the work
we're doing based on sound science?"
We must answer this question because the nation can't afford
NOT to have the most proven scientific research behind every
cleanup decision we make. Although the country is experiencing
a budget surplus, the extra money starts looking less and less
significant when the costs of cleaning up Idaho and the rest
of the nation are considered. The latest available projections
suggest it will take as much as $200 billion to manage national
environmental cleanup activities between now and the year 2070.
Estimates indicate about $21 billion of that amount will be needed
Applying the best available science to environmental challenges
in the beginning can ultimately save taxpayers' dollars. Science
does make a difference. As an example, we formerly relied on
a dated pump-and-treat technology to remove an industrial solvent
from the groundwater beneath one of our facilities. Thanks to
the work of INEEL researchers, we found a way to use naturally
occurring micro-organisms to do the cleanup work far more effectively.
And thanks to solid scientific research, we found a way to stop
the migration of organic vapors toward the Snake River Plain
aquifer. Rather than dig up and box the contaminated soil, we
developed a system to vacuum out the vapors so they can be treated
aboveground, a cheaper and more efficient method. These are real
examples of how breakthrough science and engineering research
can make our cleanup dollars stretch farther.
Another way to get the best science we can is through our partnership
with the state's system of higher education. We recently entered
into multi-million-dollar agreements with all three of Idaho's
universities to help us develop a better understanding of Idaho's
subsurface and how materials move through and interact with various
We need to know more. How do contaminants move? What gets absorbed,
what passes through and why? Can we get better images of exactly
how far a substance has migrated underground? These are also
environmental questions facing many other Idaho communities,
industries and whole segments of our economy. The answers we
develop to these and related questions from the INEEL will help
us continue to make far more informed waste management and cleanup
Over the next year, doctoral and post-doctoral researchers at
Boise State University, the University of Idaho and Idaho State
University will work together with their peers at the INEEL on
many crucial projects. The knowledge developed will help guide
ongoing and future cleanup at the laboratory. And what we learn
at the INEEL will have applications for
other Idaho industries, such as agriculture, mining and subsurface
water protection efforts.
Additional science research is provided through our partnerships
with other DOE laboratories and sites across the country. We're
setting up effective teams to solve problems, and we're continuing
to collaborate with other federal agencies, universities, private
companies and foreign organizations.
Whether planning for specific INEEL cleanup or addressing broad
multi-industry environmental issues, we, as taxpayers, must insist
that solid and well-tested science serve as the foundation of
our state and national cleanup and policy decisions. Science
is a sound investment.
Bill Shipp is Laboratory Director for the Idaho National Engineering
and Environmental Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and is the
Science and Technology Advisor to Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.