SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 2000

Commentary on Cultural Considerations in Risk Assessment: An Ethical Responsibility


The United States Department of Energy's (DOE) Center for Risk Excellence has been charged with developing the “Risk Plan” for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation's (Richland, WA) Groundwater/Vadose Zone Integration Project. The goal of the Integration Project is to assure the protection of water resources, the Columbia River environment, river-dependent life, and users of the Columbia River resources. Credible data and predictive analytical tools are needed to assess impacts associated with the remedial options proposed by DOE as the Department engages with regulators, Tribal Nations, and stakeholders in making cleanup decisions. Cultural risk impact assessment can be defined as part of a quality of life assessment--an assessment of the quality of our human health and environmental health. Cultural risk assessments should gauge how human health and environmental risks impact the cultures we live in and that give our lives meaning. We are making strides in the human health and ecological risk assessments that are standard to the current remediation process, but we are less clear on how to assess cultural impacts. However, to comprehensively evaluate and address the risks resulting from past and future DOE operations, we must consider the effects to cultural endpoints. To do less could be an unethical exercise of our responsibilities to assess and manage risk.

Author Information

Young, AL
Center for Risk Excellence, U.S. Department of Energy, Chicago Operations Office, Argonne, IL
Hocking, EK
Argonne National Laboratory, Washington, DC
McGinn, CW
Environmental Restoration Group, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN
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Developed by Committee: E47
Pages: 219–222
DOI: 10.1520/STP14425S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5430-8
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-2861-3