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Plans and Practices for Groundwater Protection at the Los Alamos National Laboratory: Final Report PLANS AND PRACTICES FOR GROUNDWATER PROTECTION AT THE LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY FINAL REPORT Committee for the Technical Assessment of Environmental Programs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board Division on Earth and Life Studies NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu
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Plans and Practices for Groundwater Protection at the Los Alamos National Laboratory: Final Report THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Management contract #DE-FC01-04EW07022. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-10619-1 (Book) International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-10619-2 (Book) Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu. Cover: Flat, table-topped hills (mesas) with valleys in between characterize the topography of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico. Photo courtesy of DOE. Copyright 2007 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.
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Plans and Practices for Groundwater Protection at the Los Alamos National Laboratory: Final Report THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org
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Plans and Practices for Groundwater Protection at the Los Alamos National Laboratory: Final Report COMMITTEE FOR THE TECHNICAL ASSESSMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMS AT THE LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY LARRY W. LAKE (Chairman), University of Texas, Austin RODNEY C. EWING (Vice Chairman), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor DEANNA S. DURNFORD, Colorado State University, Fort Collins ROLF U. HALDEN, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland INEZ HUA, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana ANNIE B. KERSTING, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California ANTHONY J. KNEPP, YAHSGS, LLC, Richland, Washington CHRISTOPHER J. MURRAY, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington KENNETH A. RAINWATER, Texas Tech University, Lubbock ARTHUR W. RAY, Wiley Environmental Strategies, Columbia, Maryland JOHN R. SMITH, Alcoa Inc., Alcoa Center, Pennsylvania Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board Liaison WARREN F. MILLER, Texas A&M University, Albuquerque, New Mexico Staff JOHN R. WILEY, Study Director TONI GREENLEAF, Financial and Administrative Associate COURTNEY GIBBS, Senior Program Assistant JAMES YATES, JR., Office Assistant
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Plans and Practices for Groundwater Protection at the Los Alamos National Laboratory: Final Report NUCLEAR AND RADIATION STUDIES BOARD RICHARD A. MESERVE (Chairman), Carnegie Institution, Washington, D.C. S. JAMES ADELSTEIN (Vice Chairman), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts JOEL S. BEDFORD, Colorado State University, Fort Collins SUE B. CLARK, Washington State University, Pullman ALLEN G. CROFF, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (retired), Oak Ridge, Tennessee DAVID E. DANIEL, The University of Texas at Dallas SARAH C. DARBY, Clinical Trial Service Unit, Oxford, United Kingdom ROGER L. HAGENGRUBER, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque DANIEL KREWSKI, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada KLAUS KÜHN, Technische Universität Clausthal, Clausthal-Zellerfeld, Germany MILTON LEVENSON, Bechtel International (retired), Menlo Park, California C. CLIFTON LING, Memorial Hospital, New York City, New York PAUL A. LOCKE, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland WARREN F. MILLER, Texas A&M University, Albuquerque, New Mexico ANDREW M. SESSLER, E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California JOHN C. VILLFORTH, Food and Drug Law Institute (retired), Gaithersburg, Maryland PAUL L. ZIEMER, Purdue University (retired), West Lafayette, Indiana Staff KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Director EVAN B. DOUPLE, Scholar RICK JOSTES, Senior Program Officer MICAH D. LOWENTHAL, Senior Program Officer JOHN R. WILEY, Senior Program Officer NAOKO ISHIBE, Program Officer TONI GREENLEAF, Administrative and Financial Associate LAURA D. LLANOS, Administrative and Financial Associate COURTNEY GIBBS, Senior Program Assistant MANDI M. BOYKIN, Program Assistant SHAUNTEE WHETSTONE, Program Assistant JAMES YATES, JR., Office Assistant
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Plans and Practices for Groundwater Protection at the Los Alamos National Laboratory: Final Report Reviewers This report has been reviewed in draft form by persons chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purposes of this review are to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards of objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following for their participation in the review of this report: Jean M. Bahr, University of Wisconsin, Madison Sue B. Clark, Washington State University, Pullman David E. Daniel, University of Texas, Dallas Michael Kavanaugh, Malcolm Pirnie, Inc., Emeryville, California Frank J. Schuh, Drilling Technology, Inc., Plano, Texas Bruce M. Thomson, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque Laura Toran, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Frank Stillinger, Visiting Research Collaborator, Princeton University, and Lloyd A. Duscha, Deputy Director of Engineering and Construction, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (retired). Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Research Council.
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Plans and Practices for Groundwater Protection at the Los Alamos National Laboratory: Final Report Preface The Manhattan Project during World War II led to construction of the world’s first atomic weapon at a site near Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1943. Now designated as the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the site continues to play key roles in science and defense. Like other Department of Energy (DOE) sites in the nation’s nuclear complex, LANL has a legacy of radioactive waste and environmental contamination that can pose a threat to groundwater. Groundwater is a precious resource in New Mexico. While groundwater protection efforts have been ongoing throughout the site’s history, a state-mandated program to ensure groundwater protection began in 1998 with a major study to characterize the site’s hydrogeology. Under a Consent Order issued by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), the program, including remedial actions as necessary, is to be completed by 2015. At that time, groundwater protection will transition into a phase of environmental stewardship and long-term monitoring. To help ensure the program’s successful completion, the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) turned to the National Academies for advice on scientific and technical aspects of the program through a study funded by the DOE Office of Environmental Management. DOE asked the Academies’ study committee to address a series of questions regarding the current state of the program and provide recommendations that would improve its future effectiveness. While confining itself to its task statement, the committee has been aware of citizens’ concerns about the quality of the region’s groundwater and LANL’s ability to protect it. These concerns provided an important context for the committee’s deliberations. The committee is indebted to the many scientists, officials, and citizens who participated in its information-gathering meetings (March, May, and August 2006)1 and other phases of the study. We would like to recognize several individuals who made special efforts to assist our work. Mat Johansen, of the Los Alamos Site Office of NNSA, and Jean Dewart, of LANL’s Environmental Programs Directorate (EPD), served as the committee’s points of contact. Their work in organizing technical presentations and workshop discussions by LANL scientists was central to the committee’s information gathering. Donathan Krier, EPD, helped to fulfill the committee’s many document requests. Danny Katzman, EPD, organized our visit to the LANL site during our May meeting and was always willing to address our many questions. The committee was honored to accept an invitation from Governor James Mountain to visit the Pueblo de San Ildefonso in May 2006. The Pueblo is adjacent to the LANL site and on the groundwater flowpath from the site. Neil Weber served as the committee’s point of contact with the Pueblo. Marian Naranjo of the Santa Clara Pueblo assisted in the distribution of information about the study to other Pueblos and Native American organizations in New Mexico. The Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Board (NNMCAB) through its chairman, J.D. Campbell, provided valuable information, assistance, and advice to the committee. The committee participated in an NNMCAB groundwater forum meeting at the Dwayne Smith Auditorium in Los Alamos in May 2006. Robert Gilkeson, a registered geologist, provided the committee much technical material directed at LANL’s groundwater monitoring program by a presentation at the committee’s May meeting, participation in its August workshop, and written contributions. Joni Arends, of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, described both technical and public concerns to the committee. She and Mr. Gilkeson jointly responded to committee requests for information regarding radionuclide contamination on the site. James Bearzi, chief of the NMED Hazardous Waste Bureau, and his staff helped the committee understand the state’s role in enforcing groundwater protection regulations and the regulatory requirements set forth in the Consent Order by participating in all of the committee’s information- 1 Participants and their presentations are listed in Appendix A.
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Plans and Practices for Groundwater Protection at the Los Alamos National Laboratory: Final Report gathering meetings. At the workshop, Richard Meyer described the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s views and concerns about groundwater protection at LANL. The committee would also like to thank John Till, Risk Assessment Corporation, and his staff members Justin Mohler and Bruce Jacobs for providing the committee, pro bono, some of the graphical representations of LANL groundwater monitoring data that appear in this report. The committee understands that these representations are based entirely on publicly available data supplied by LANL and that they do not imply any authentication or interpretation of the data by Risk Assessment Corporation. Most importantly, as chair and vice chair of the committee, we would like to thank all of the committee members for freely sharing their expertise, insights, opinions, and especially their time in the preparation of this report. While never hesitant to express and defend their views, members were unanimous in their spirit of cooperation and objectivity—and in arriving at the report’s findings and recommendations. The committee was ably assisted by the staff of the National Academies’ Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board. John Wiley, who served as the study director, and Courtney Gibbs, senior program assistant, supported all phases of our work from the initial committee appointment through its information gathering, report writing, review, and publication of this report. Kevin Crowley, board director, regularly attended our meetings where he shared thoughtful advice and guidance for making this report valuable for policy makers, scientists, and interested members of the public. Larry W. Lake, Chairman Rodney C. Ewing, Vice Chairman
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Plans and Practices for Groundwater Protection at the Los Alamos National Laboratory: Final Report Contents SUMMARY 1 1 INTRODUCTION 5 The Committee’s Task, 5 Overview of This Report, 8 2 FRAMEWORK FOR GROUNDWATER PROTECTION AT LANL 11 Technical Challenges Confronting LANL’s Groundwater Program, 11 Stakeholders’ Concerns About Groundwater Protection at LANL, 14 The Regulatory Framework for Groundwater Protection at LANL—The Consent Order, 14 3 CONTAMINATION SOURCES AND SOURCE CONTROL 19 LANL’s Source Prioritization, 19 Migration from Sources: Geochemistry, 24 Representation of Source Data, 27 Findings and Recommendations on Sources, 32 4 PATHWAYS FOR CONTAMINANT TRANSPORT 35 Contaminant Pathways and Monitoring, 35 Vadose Zone Flow Pathways, 36 Regional Aquifer Pathway Conceptualizations, 41 Numerical Models, 42 Evaluation of the Interim Groundwater Monitoring Plan, 43 Geophysical Methods for Site Characterization and Monitoring, 45 Findings and Recommendations on Pathways, 45 5 MONITORING AND DATA QUALITY 49 Well Construction, 49 Sampling Protocol, 57 Data Quality for Remediation Decisions, 58 Findings and Recommendations on Monitoring and Data Quality, 60
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Plans and Practices for Groundwater Protection at the Los Alamos National Laboratory: Final Report 6 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 63 Overarching Findings, 63 Findings and Recommendations to Address the Task Statement, 64 Concluding Remarks, 70 REFERENCES 71 APPENDIXES A Presentations to the Committee 75 B Committee Biographies 77 C Acronyms 79