United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Lessons Learned in Detecting, Monitoring, Modeling and Remediating Radioactive Ground-Water Contamination (NUREG/CR-7029)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: December 2010
Date Published: April 2011

Prepared by:
T. Sullivan, M. Hauptmann, and W. Gunther

Brookhaven National Laboratory
Upton, NY 11973-5000

J. Philip, NRC Project Manager
T. Nicholson, NRC Technical Monitor

NRC Job Code N6937

Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington DC 20555-0001

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Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) is a multi-discipline Department of Energy (DOE) research institute that has been in operation since 1947. Historical operations included running accelerators, nuclear research reactors, and other large complex equipment. Some of these operations caused groundwater contamination. This report discusses the tritium plume from the High Flux Beam Reactor and several strontium plumes from past operations at the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor, their discovery through monitoring, and their treatment. The tritium plume discovery led to public outrage; characterization, design, and implementation of a treatment system within 60 days; and eventual dismissal of Associated Universities Incorporated from the management of BNL despite the small health risk to employees or the public. Management of the strontium plume included a major alteration to the original regulatory cleanup agreement when field data showed the preferred alternative to be economically impractical. The report documents activities used to manage these contamination issues through source control, monitoring, modeling, plume and risk management, and communications. The lessons learned from these cleanup projects have altered the stewardship culture and methods of performing research, communicating with the public, and conducting work at BNL. These valuable lessons are highlighted in this report.

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