#98-108

Issued 11/5/98

Contact: Mona S. Rowe, (516) 344-5056, or Kara Villamil, (516) 344-5658

 

Brookhaven Lab Issues Historical Environmental Report
Report Covers the Years 1967-70

UPTON, NY - The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory has issued a radiological environmental monitoring report for the years 1967-70. This report summarizes radiological monitoring data collected on and around the BNL site for the four-year period from 1967 through 1970. It fills a gap in the annual public reports that BNL has issued from 1962 to the present.

Data in the report are consistent with published reports in the years preceding 1967 and since 1970. Although BNL operations resulted in a higher potential public dose in earlier years than they do today, potential doses were well below federal standards at all times.

In 1963, BNL pioneered the development of an annual public environmental monitoring report. The first such report was for calendar year 1962. Reports were also published for calendar years 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966.

Because these reports were prepared as staff time allowed, BNL did not compile annual reports for the years 1967 through 1970, although environmental monitoring continued as usual.

In 1971, annual site environmental reports became a contractual obligation with the Lab's federal funding agency. BNL has issued a site monitoring report for every year since 1971.

Environmental Monitoring

The historical 1967-70 report compiles radiological environmental monitoring data for air and liquid releases from facilities on the BNL site, as well as measurements of direct radiation at the site boundary and at off-site monitoring and sampling locations. During those years, BNL's monitoring program included measurements of radioactive fallout from above-ground nuclear weapons tests conducted periodically by the People's Republic of China.

The four-year time period covered in the report marked the end of operation for the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor and the early years of operation for its replacement, the High Flux Beam Reactor. Both reactors were used for research.

Other large research facilities in operation during this time included the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron particle accelerator and the Brookhaven Medical Research Reactor. The Laboratory was also using a gamma radiation source for ecology research, in an area then known as the Ecology Forest and now sometimes referred to as the Gamma Forest.

The largest dose from Lab operations during those years would have been received by a hypothetical individual living year-round outdoors at the northeast site boundary, primarily from the Ecology Forest source. For the years 1967-70, the highest measured annual dose at that location was 101 millirems in 1967 (a millirem is a unit of radiation dose to the body). When BNL acquired property in 1969, including some homes to the north and vacant land to the east and south, the Lab perimeter was extended by an average of about 2,500 feet. In 1969, the calculated annual dose to a hypothetical individual at the new perimeter was 17 millirems (radiation dose drops off rapidly with distance from the source). The Ecology Forest project ended in 1979.

As standards have evolved through the years, BNL has always worked to keep emissions as low as reasonably achievable. Today, the calculated maximum dose from BNL operations for a hypothetical individual living outdoors at the site boundary is less than 1 millirem per year. To put that number in perspective, the whole body dose from a dental x-ray is 1 millirem.

The following is a brief description of the data categories in the report.

Established in 1947, BNL has always monitored the environment on and around the Lab site to assess the effects of its operations on the environment. Early monitoring focused on radiation, and data were reported in various internal BNL documents and in presentations at scientific meetings. They were also summarized in the Laboratory's annual progress reports, which were submitted to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). The AEC was a predecessor to DOE, which funds BNL today.

Beginning in the mid-1970s, BNL extended its monitoring program to include analysis of the environment for non-radiological components such as heavy metals and volatile organic compounds.

The Radiological Environmental Monitoring Report for 1967-70 fills a gap in the series of BNL annual environmental reports that began in 1962. BNL will next assemble historical data to prepare a summary report on the years 1947-1961.

The 1967-70 report and the reference material used to generate it are available to the public at BNL's research library.

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