Problems in shallow land disposal of solid low-level radioactive waste in the united states

Bulletin of the International Association of Engineering Geology
By:  and 



Disposal of solid low-level wastes containing radionuclides by burial in shallow trenches was initiated during World War II at several sites as a method of protecting personnel from radiation and isolating the radionuclides from the hydrosphere and biosphere. Today, there are 11 principal shallow-land burial sites in the United States that contain a total of more than 1.4 million cubic meters of solid wastes contaminated with a wide variety of radionuclides. Criteria for burial sites have been few and generalized and have contained only minimal hydrogeologic considerations. Waste-management practices have included the burial of small quantities of long-lived radionuclides with large volumes of wastes contaminated with shorter-lived nuclides at the same site, thereby requiring an assurance of extremely long-time containment for the entire disposal site. Studies at 4 of the 11 sites have documented the migration of radionuclides. Other sites are being studied for evidence of containment failure. Conditions at the 4 sites are summarized. In each documented instance of containment failure, ground water has probably been the medium of transport. Migrating radionuclides that have been identified include90Sr,137Cs,106Ru,239Pu,125Sb,60Co, and3H. Shallow land burial of solid wastes containing radionuclides can be a viable practice only if a specific site satisfies adequate hydrogeologic criteria. Suggested hydrogeologic criteria and the types of hydrogeologic data necessary for an adequate evaluation of proposed burial sites are given. It is mandatory that a concomitant inventory and classification be made of the longevity, and the physical and chemical form of the waste nuclides to be buried, in order that the anticipated waste types can be matched to the containment capability of the proposed sites. Ongoing field investigations at existing sites will provide data needed to improve containment at these sites and help develop hydrogeologic criteria for new sites. These studies have necessitated the development of special drilling, sampling, well construction, and testing techniques. A recent development in borehole geophysical techniques is downhole spectral gammaray analysis which not only locates but identifies specific radionuclides in the subsurface. Field investigations are being supplemented by laboratory studies of the hydrochemistry of the transuranic elements, the kinetics of solid-liquid phase interactions, and the potential complexing of radionuclides with organic compounds and solvents which mobilize normally highly sorbable nuclides. Theoretical studies of digital predictive solute transport models are being implemented to assure their availability for application to problems and processes identified in the field and laboratory. ?? 1976 International Association of Engineering Geology.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Problems in shallow land disposal of solid low-level radioactive waste in the united states
Series title Bulletin of the International Association of Engineering Geology
DOI 10.1007/BF02634782
Volume 13
Issue 1
Year Published 1976
Language English
Publisher Springer-Verlag
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Bulletin of the International Association of Engineering Geology
First page 161
Last page 171