United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Technical Assistance Request, Disposal of Liquid Waste into Arctic Ocean

HPPOS-271 PDR-9306100048

Title: Technical Assistance Request, Disposal of Liquid

Waste into Arctic Ocean

See the memorandum from J. E. Glenn to R. R. Bellamy dated

June 25, 1991. This memo was written in response to the May

28, 1991 letter (Enclosure 1) from R. F. Rivkin, University

of Maryland, Center for Environmental and Estuarine

Studies, which was sent to NMSS by Region 1 as a TAR. As

indicated in Mr. Rivkin's letter, the National Science

Foundation is sponsoring a research project involving the

use of carbon-14 (C-14) and tritium (H-3). This project

will take place in the Arctic Ocean during a research

cruise from Murmansk, USSR, to Nome, Alaska, aboard a

Soviet icebreaker, Sovetskiy Soyuz, from July 27 to August

16, 1991. Mr. Rivkin is seeking permission to dispose of

about 10 millicuries of H-3 and 40 millicuries of C-14 in

the Arctic Ocean.

Enclosure 1 states: "... the use of the radioisotopes will

be to determine the rates of carbon incorporation of

phytoplankton assemblages, the rates of bacterial

production and the ingestion of bacteria and phytoplankton

by microzooplankton in the Arctic Ocean. Briefly, either

NaH14CO3 or methyl, 3H-thymidine (3H-TdR) will be added to

seawater samples in glass or polycarbonate bottles and

after an appropriate incubation interval, the particulate

material will be collected onto a filter pad. The filter

is retained and returned to the investigators home

institution for further analysis. The seawater which

passes through the filters contains the dissolved NaH14CO3

or 3H-TdR which was not incorporated by the microbial

organisms." And, "If this were a "normal" research cruise

aboard the UNOLS fleet (i.e. the research vessels operated

by U.S. universities), the liquid waste (in the filtered

seawater) would be contained and returned to our university

(in Maryland) for disposal. Unfortunately this will not be

possible during this cruise. The port of debarkation is

Nome, Alaska, which totally lacks rail and road service to

the continental United States. The only way to retrograde

the liquid waste would be by air which represents a

significant safety hazard."

By memorandum dated June 5, 1991 (Enclosure 2), NMSS asked

the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) for guidance in

responding to Mr. Rivkin. OGC's June 20, 1991 memorandum

is Enclosure 3. In summary, OGC indicates:

1. The Soviet icebreaker, a nuclear powered ship,

cannot debark at Nome, Alaska, and cannot enter the

territorial waters of the United States.

2. The NRC does not have jurisdiction over the

proposed discharges of radioactive material into

international waters. OGC suggests that Mr. Rivkin contact

the State Department to learn if there are applicable

international agreements or conventions governing such

discharges. OGC also suggests that Mr. Rivkin discuss the

proposed discharges with his Soviet colleagues.

Regulatory references: 10 CFR 20.2002

Subject codes: 9.0, 12.9, 12.13

Applicability: Byproduct Material

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, March 29, 2012