In the United States, low-level radioactive waste is disposed of by shallow land burial. Commercial low-level radioactive waste has been buried at six sites, and low-level radioactive waste generated by the Federal Government has been buried at nine major and several minor sites. Several existing low-level radioactive waste sites have not provided expected protection of the environment. These shortcomings are related, at least in part, to an inadequate understanding of site hydrogeology at the time the sites were selected.
To better understand the natural systems and the effect of hydrogeologic factors on long-term site performance, the U.S. Geological Survey has conducted investigations at five of the six commercial low-level radioactive waste sites and at three Federal sites. These studies, combined with those of other Federal and State agencies, have identified and confirmed important hydrogeologic factors in the effective disposal of low-level radioactive waste by shallow land burial. These factors include precipitation, surface drainage, topography, site stability, geology, thickness of the host soil-rock horizon, soil and sediment permeability, soil and water chemistry, and depth to the water table.
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Hydrogeologic factors in the selection of shallow land burial sites for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste