Iodine-129 in the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer at and near the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho, 2017–18

Scientific Investigations Report 2019-5133
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy
By:  and 

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Abstract

From 1953 to 1988, approximately 0.941 curies of iodine-129 (129I) were contained in wastewater generated at the Idaho National Laboratory, with almost all of it discharged at or near the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center (INTEC). Until 1984, most of the wastewater was discharged directly into the eastern Snake River Plain (ESRP) aquifer through a deep disposal well; however, some wastewater was also discharged into unlined infiltration ponds or leaked from distribution systems below the INTEC.

During 2017–18, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, collected samples for 129I from 30 wells that monitor the ESRP aquifer to track concentrations and changes of the carcinogenic radionuclide that has a 15.7 million-year half-life. Concentrations of 129I in the aquifer ranged from 0.000016 ± 0.000001 to 0.88+/- 0.03 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), and concentrations generally decreased in wells near the INTEC as compared with previously collected samples. The average concentration of 15 wells sampled during 5 different sample periods decreased from 1.15 pCi/L in 1990–91 to 0.168 pCi/L in 2017–18, but average concentrations were similar to 2011–12 within analytical uncertainty. All but four wells within a 3-mile radius of the INTEC showed decreases in concentration, and all samples had concentrations less than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level of 1 pCi/L. These decreases are attributed to the discontinuation of disposal of 129I in wastewater and to dilution and dispersion in the aquifer. Some wells southeast of INTEC showed increasing trends; these increases were attributed to variable transmissivity.

Although wells near INTEC sampled in 2017–18 showed decreases in concentrations compared with data collected previously, some wells south of the INL boundary showed small increases. These increases are attributed to historical variable discharge rates of wastewater that eventually moved to these well locations as a pulse of water from a particular disposal period.

Suggested Citation

Maimer, N.V., and Bartholomay, R.C., 2019, Iodine-129 in the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer at and near the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho, 2017–18: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2019-5133, 20 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20195133.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods and Quality Assurance
  • Concentrations of Iodine-129 in the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer
  • Summary
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Iodine-129 in the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer at and near the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho, 2017–18
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2019-5133
DOI 10.3133/sir20195133
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Idaho Water Science Center
Description v, 20 p.
Country United States
State Idaho
Other Geospatial Idaho National Laboratory
Online Only (Y/N) Y
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