Once the United States' builders of sky-riding nuclear bombs, the Department of Energy is now looking back at Earth to clean up the mess such decades-long efforts have left. Specifically, the agency is beginning to address environmental problems in the land beneath its 12 major weapons research, production, and test sites and related facilities. It is a huge effort; environmental management now commands the largest budget in the agency at $5.5 billion this year.

But DOE may have problems finding the upper-level scientific expertise to begin what is predicted to be a 30-year cleanup effort. A preliminary study of the staff DOE will need for the first five-year phase of cleanup concluded that the agency will be well-supplied with most of the estimated 25,000 technicians, scientists, and other workers it needs; about half will be existing DOE personnel who will be retrained. But the report warns that the agency may...

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