[ RadSafe ] BNL H-3 in Groundwater

Timothy Rice tbrice at gw.dec.state.ny.us
Thu Feb 2 13:46:47 CST 2012

Dear radsafers,
I may be able to shed a little light on the H-3 groundwater issue at Brookhaven National Lab (BNL).  The groundwater plume in question had H-3 at MANY times the drinking water standard (I apologize for not providing #'s, but do not currently have the data at hand) heading towards their southern boundary and nearby communities.  The source was a previously unidentified, long-standing  leak from their High-flux Beam Reactor (HFBR) spent fuel pool.  

There are many homes on Long Island on private drinking water wells, and all of the public supplies are fully or mostly from wells.  The Island is basically one big glacial moraine that supplies all of the area drinking water.  Therefore, any threat to that sole source aquifer is taken very seriously by residents and politicians there, as do the State and federal environmental regulators.  BNL is understandably sensitive to this issue.

They took a three part approach to addressing the plume, and eventually shut down the HFBR (for several reasons) and emptied the fuel pool to remove the source.  A decade or more ago they removed some of the highest concentration water from the core of the plume for shipment offsite (as has been discussed here) to reduce the total activity in the plume and make the next step feasible.  Since that time they have been successfully using extraction wells to remove H-3 contaminated water from the plume and reintroduce it to the site groundwater well upgradient of the southern site boundary.  This keeps H-3 from moving off site at elevated concentrations, and allows for what EPA calls "monitored natural attenuation," which in this case mainly allows time for decay and provides dilution.  Finally, they offered to put any concerned downgradient residents on private wells onto public water supply.  You can go to http://www.bnl.gov/gpg/GW_Annual.asp for more info.

Best Regards,
Tim Rice

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