A Department of Energy project, Advanced Simulation Capabilities for Environmental Management (ASCEM) was formed to create an integrated approach that creates a modeling platform with a high performance computing (HPC) framework and several user application toolsets that together allow full integration between data, simulations, and uncertainty assessment.
Toward Transformational Predictive Capabilities
ASCEM was formed to better meet the challenges of efficiently and cost-effectively minimizing environmental, safety and health risks across the EM complex. It will develop transformational, high performance computer modeling capabilities to improve our ability to predict the fate and movements of underground contaminants and the degradation of engineered materials that contribute to contaminant release. ASCEM goals include:
- Develop modular toolsets capable of accurately representing key aspects of complex engineered and subsurface environments to enable greater realism, enhance accuracy and agility, and improve uncertainty quantification.
- Implementing a graded approach to using current and future HPC toolsets to solve the most difficult EM challenges, appropriately matching the solution to the complexity of the problem.
- Provide a transformational capability to simulate coupled degradation, hydrological, geochemical and microbiological processes across EM’s complex waste site environments.
- Implement formal uncertainty quantification and decision tools in a standardized framework to improve efficiency and consistency when approaching the diverse set of DOE-EM modeling problems.
- Improve EM’s ability to evaluate and select more cost effective short and long-term remediation options to protect human health and the environment.
According to the January 2009 Report to Congress on the Status of Environmental Management Initiatives to Accelerate the Reduction of Environmental Risks and Challenges Posed by the Legacy of the Cold War [USDOE, 2009], “the biggest challenges EM faces are those that have few precedents and fewer off-the-shelf technologies and processes to address them”. DOE-EM has set an internal challenge to minimize environment, safety, and health risks across the complex in a safe, secure, compliant, and cost-effective manner.
In their review of the DOE EM Office of Engineering and Technology roadmap, the National Academy of Sciences (Advice on Department of Energy’s Cleanup Technology Road Map: Gaps and Bridges, 2009) predicted that as EM addresses cleanup of more difficult sites, it will need continued scientific investments to understand the release, fate and transport of contaminants in the subsurface. Many of the remaining waste sites are challenging because of the complexity and coupled nature of controlling hydrological, biological and geochemical processes and the wide range of scales over which they operate (Figure 1).
ASCEM’s new developments will allow EM researchers to address larger and more intricate problems—a necessity in dealing with the challenging waste sites in the EM complex. A key result of ASCEM’s advances will be the creation of next-generation performance assessment (PA) capabilities for EM, made possible by improvements to predictive capabilities. These enhanced capabilities will allow for more realistic modeling of key processes and uncertainty to support improved decision-making for the most difficult EM problems, while maintaining a graded modelling approach for less complex sites.
Updating DOE-EM’s simulation capability with the most advanced scientific understanding will enable predictions that support decisions on the management and disposition of challenging waste. It will provide a consistent approach for performance and risk assessment that site personnel and regulators can use to guide and assess remedial actions (including natural attenuation), site closure, and long-term waste management decisions. An anticipated outcome will be increased public confidence in the reliability of EM decision-making and reduced long-term maintenance and monitoring costs.