#97-100
Issued 10/6/97

Status of Environmental Management Activities

At Brookhaven National Laboratory


Upton, NY Officials at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory met today with representatives of regional regulatory agencies, elected officials and community groups to provide an update of environmental management efforts at BNL.
BNL initiated a site-wide review of its facilities in April of this year and issued an interim report on September 10, 1997. Environmental concerns reported in September were subdivided into two broad categories: "Underground Sumps, Tanks, Lines and Ducts" and "Historic Discharges of Solvents, Oil, and Mercury."
During the course of the comprehensive review, the Lab immediately corrected a number of deficiencies. Since the interim report was issued, BNL has taken aggressive further follow-up action.
One follow-up action dealt with the ongoing investigation of the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor complex. The partially decommissioned graphite reactor operated from 1950-1968. The reactor complex has an empty spent-fuel pool, an inactive underground sumps, tanks and air ducts, all known to be contaminated with radioactivity.
On September 15 of this year, BNL found standing water in a vertical pipe connected to an air duct used to cool the reactor. On further inspection, the Lab found that the below-ground portion of the air duct contained an estimated 60,000 gallons of water. Sampling and analyses indicate that the water is contaminated with radionuclides, including strontium-90, cesium-137 and tritium.
BNL expects to begin pumping water out of the air duct soon. This process will take several weeks. The water will be temporarily stored in tanks with secondary containment in a paved, curbed and isolated area on the Lab site until it can be processed and/or removed from the property.

The Lab established a committee to determine the source of the water in the air duct. Past leakage from cooling coils and rainwater intrusion are the two most likely sources. The cooling coils have been isolated, and BNL is evaluating methods to prevent rainwater from getting into the duct.

The following chart shows the radionuclides of concern in the air duct.

Radionuclide Concentration in Duct*
strontium-90 10 million pCi/L
cesium-137 4 million pCi/L
tritium 50 thousand pCi/L
*In picocuries per liter, abbreviated as pCi/L.

The air duct is made of concrete with a stainless-steel liner. The water level in the duct is approximately 25 feet below ground. Radiation measurements are at normal background levels above ground, at the surface.

Previous groundwater samples taken over the past several years from directly east of the air duct and about 500 feet south have shown tritium levels less than 1,000 pCi/L and strontium up to about 50 pCi/L. Samples taken even further south show a drop in strontium levels. These data have been previously reported to regulators.

To investigate possible leakage from the air duct into groundwater, BNL will be doing additional groundwater monitoring in the immediate area of the reactor complex.

Because cesium and strontium tend to bind to soil, their movement in groundwater is slow. Strontium moves in groundwater less than 25 feet a year, and cesium travels less than one foot a year. For that reason, if the air duct has leaked, contamination is expected to be localized near the reactor.

Other Completed Corrective Actions

· On September 16, BNL pumped out 600 gallons of liquid and sludge from an underground tank in Building 525. The material, contaminated with radionuclides, will be processed on site and sent for disposal off site. The tank is scheduled to be removed by the end of the year. Groundwater downgradient from the tank was sampled in August, and all analyses have not been completed.
· On September 30, mercury and mercury-contaminated soil were removed from a crawl space underneath a former laboratory in Building 197. Sampling will be done by mid-October to determine if any further remediation is required. The area was surveyed for mercury vapor in May, when the original inspection was done, and no mercury vapor hazard exists to employees in the workplace, as all readings were at background levels.
· Building 830 houses two large shielded rooms in which radionuclides were handled. The rooms are connected by a water-filled canal to transfer sealed radioactive sources between the rooms. BNL has completed both a safety review

for pumping out water from the canal and a leak test. The leak test indicated that the canal is leaking about five gallons a day. Analyses of the canal water, however, indicate that it meets the drinking water standard for radionuclides. Additionally, groundwater samples in the immediate vicinity of the building show radionuclides well below the standard. The canal is scheduled to be pumped out by mid-October.

Three actions originally scheduled to be completed by the end of September will completed during October. About 100 gallons of water must be pumped out of a sump in Building 701, a water-level indicator must be installed in a vertical pipe at Building 704, and underground waste lines need to be checked at Building 801.

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