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SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGy FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANUP AT HANFORD Committee on the Review of the Hanford Site's Environmental Remediation Science and Technology Plan Board on Radioactive Waste Management Division on Earth and Life Studies National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C.
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 competencies and with regard for appropriate balance. Support for this study was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy under cooperative agreement number DE-FC01-99EW59049. All opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Energy. International Standard Book Number 0-309-07596-3 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Box 285 Washington, DC 20055 800-624-6242 202-334-3313 (in the Washington Metropolitan Area) http://www.nap.edu Copyright 2001 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. ii
National Acaclemy of Sciences National Academy of Engineering Institute of Meclicine National Research Council Or;- U\~ . UN. ,,>. 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. Bruce Alberts 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. William A. Wulf 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. Kenneth Shine 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 of 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. Bruce Alberts and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. ... ///
~ GOMMItrEE ON THE REVIEW OF THE HANFORD SITE'S ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PLAN CHRIS G. WHIPPLE, Chair, ENVIRON International Corporation Emeryville, California D. WAYNE BERMAN, Aeolus, Inc., Albany, California SUE B. CLARK, Washington State University, Pullman JOHN C. FOUNTAIN, State University of New York, Buffalo LYNN W. GELHAR, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge LISA C. GREEN, Lucent Technologies, Norcross, Georgia ROBERT O. HALL, University of Wyoming, Laramie EDWIN E. HERRICKS, University of Illinois, Urbana BRUCE D. IHONEYMAN, Colorado School of Mines, Golden SALOMON LEVY, Levy & Associates, San Jose, California JAMES K. MITCHELL, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (retired), Blacksburg LEON T. SILVER, California Institute of Technology (retirecl), Pasadena LESLIE SMITH, University of British Columbia, Vancouver DAVID A. STONESTROM, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California Staff KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Study Director ANGELA R. TAYLOR, Senior Project Assistant v
BOARD ON RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT JOHN F. AHEARNE, Chair, Sigma Xi and Duke University, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina CHARLES MCCOMBIE, Vice-Chair, Consultant, Gipf-Oberfrick, Switzerland ROBERT M. BERNERO, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (retired), Gaithersburg, Maryland ROBERT J. BUDNITZ, Future Resources Associates, Inc., Berkeley, California GREGORY R. CHOPPIN, Florida State University, Tallahassee RODNEY EWING, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor JAMES H. JOHNSON, JR., Howard University, Washington, D.C. ROGER E. KASPERSON, Stockholm Environment Institute, Sweden NIKOLAY LAVEROV, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow JANE C.S. LONG, Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada, Reno ALEXANDER MACLACHLAN, E.l. du Pont de Nemours & Company (retired), Wilmington, Delaware WILLIAM A. MILLS, Oak Ridge Associated Universities (retired), Olney, Maryland MARTIN J. STEINDLER, Argonne National Laboratory (retired), Downers Grove, Illinois ATSUYUKI SUZUKI, University of Tokyo, Japan JOHN J. TAYLOR, Electric Power Research Institute (retired), Palo Alto, California VICTORIAN. TSCHINKEL, Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida Staff KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Director MICAH D. LOWENTHAL, Staff Officer BARBARA PASTINA, Staff Officer GREGORY H. SYMMES, Senior Staff Officer J O H N R. W I L KY, Sen for Staff Officer SUSAN B. MOCKLER, Research Associate TONI GREENLEAF, Administrative Associate DARLA J. THOMPSON, Senior Project AssistanVResearch Assistant LATRICIA C. BAILEY, Senior Project Assistant LAURA D. LLANOS, Senior Project Assistant ANGELA R. TAYLOR, Senior Project Assistant JAMES YATES, JR., Office Assistant vl
Preface This study was undertaken in response to a request to the National Research Council (NRC) from the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management. The request was that the NRC conduct a review of the science and technology program designed to address subsurface contamination at the Hanford Site. The environmental aspects of managing wastes at the Hanford Site have been addressed in several NRC studies by various committees, going back to the mid-1960s. A major focus of these studies has been on the high-level waste storage tanks in the 200 Area, which is located near the center of the site. DOE regards remediation of the 200 Area tank farms as its largest and longest-term environmental challenge. Although much of DOE's past work has focused on the characterization of tank wastes and on the treatment technologies that will be used to stabilize the wastes to make them suitable for disposal, comparatively less effort and attention has been applied to the soil and groundwater at the site. It has long been known that hazardous wastes have leaked from storage tanks into the underlying soil. In addition, there were direct discharges of liquid waste streams to cribs and ponds on the site when Hanford was producing plutonium for the U.S. nuclear weapons program. There are large uncertainties in the quantities and current locations of materials that were released to the Hanford subsurface. These uncertainties are due in part to the difficulty and expense associated with characterizing soils in the vicinity of the waste tanks and also to the cliff culty in characterizing vadose (i.e., unsaturated) zone contamination in general. Unlike groundwater contamination, which tends to form plumes that can be monitored and characterized, vadose zone contamination can follow narrow and variable flow paths that are difficult to detect. Prior to the mid-1 990s, it was generally thought that the sorption capabilities of the soil in the 200 Area would result in limited migration of waste. In particular, it was thought that radioactive cesium would largely be retained in the top several feet of soil. I lowever, this view was challenged when measurements revealed elevated levels of radionuclides deep beneath the tanks and in the groundwater under the tanks. When this was first reported, there was speculation that the measured concentrations at depth were due to inadvertent contamination during drilling. An alternative theory was that there may be fast flow paths in the vadose zone. While the soils in the 200 Area would, based on their average properties, retain cesium and other radionuclides through chemical sorption, these average properties may not determine all potential flow and transport. vii
In response to the lack of definitive information about the location and mobility of wastes in the subsurface, and with the encouragement of DOE Headquarters personnel, the Hanford Site management established the GroundwaterNadose Zone Integration Project. The science and technology component of that project is the subject of this report. As indicated in the table of contents, the report addresses the elements of the Integration Project science and technology plan, including the vadose zone, groundwater, Columbia River, remediation and monitoring, risk, and the System Assessment Capability, which is a risk assessment tool in its early stages of development. As discussed in detail in this report, one of the committee's major conclusions is that there is a great need for better characterization of the subsurface, especially of the vadose zone. Although other work to understand the processes that contribute to the mobility of the wastes and to the modeling of their migration can be useful, such work is of limited value without additional site data. Such characterization data are also needed to test theories about the processes that are important to waste migration so that models of contaminant migration can be refined. A limiting factor in the collection of such site data is cost, which points to the need for more effective and less expensive technologies for characterization. The committee has been assisted in its efforts by a high level of cooperation and responsiveness from people at the Department of Energy and in the DOE contractor organizations. We especially note the assistance provided by our three main points of contact: Mark Freshley of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL); Michael Graham of Bechtel Hanford, Inc.; and Michael Thompson of the DOE Richland Operations Office. Mark was the committee's main liaison on the science program and handled many requests from the committee for information. We also thank John Zachara of PNNL, who served as a technical guide to the Hanford Site and its associated science and technology projects, and Roy Gephart, who served as a technical guide and provided a very helpful review of Chapter 2. The committee was also assisted in its efforts by the Hanford representative from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Doug Sherwood; from the Washington State Department of Ecology, Dib Goswami; and from the Oregon Office of Energy, Dirk Dunning. In addition, the committee was kept informed of the activities of the Integration Project Expert Panel (IPEP). Ed Berkey of Concurrent Technologies, Inc., chairman of IPEP, briefed the committee at its first meeting and kept the committee informed through Kevin Crowley, study director for this project. The committee also had the benefit of discussions with the vice-chairman of IPEP, Mike Kavanaugh of Malcolm-Pirnie, Inc. Information was provided to the committee in presentations and through other means by Harry Boston of the DOE Office of River ... Vlil
Protection, Gerald Boycl of DOE, Office of Environmental Management (EM) (Headquarters), Wade Ballard of the DOE-Richland Operations Office (RL), Mary Harmon of DOE-EM (Headquarters), and Mike Hughes, president of Bechtel Hanford, Inc. Appendix B includes a full list of the people who made presentations to the committee. Priscilla Yamada of PNNL and Virginia Rohay of Bechtel Hanford, Inc. provided logistical support. Finally, the support provided to the committee by Kevin Crowley was exceptional. Kevin worked with people at DOE and the Hanford contractor organizations to get the right questions asked of the appropriate people, helped arrange the meeting agendas with the right balance of presentations and time for discussion, and kept track of the numerous "loose ends" that the committee generated as it worked to understand the situation at Hanford and the evolving nature of the Vadose Zone/Groundwater Science and Technology Project. The committee faced a steep learning curve, and Kevin helped to identify and define the important issues and activities that the committee needed to focus on, while simultaneously respecting that the committee was to reach its own conclusions. With the help of Angela Taylor, the committee was kept organized and provided with a nearly unlimited supply of reading material. Angela also handled many of the travel and meeting logistics for the committee. At the time this report went into final review by the National Research Council, a full set of the presentation materials from the committee's meetings at the Hanford site was available on-line at http://www.bhi-erc.com/projects/vadose/peer/nas.htm. Chris Whipple Chair ix
Reviewer Acknowledgments This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC's Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for 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 individuals for their review of this report: Michael O. Annable, University of Florida Charles C. Coutant, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Robert J. Naiman, University of Washington Donald T. Reed, Argonne National Laboratory John J. Taylor, Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (retired) Peter J. Wierenga, University of Arizona James G. Wenzel, Marine Development Associates, Inc. Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by George Hornberger, University of Virginia, appointed by the National Research Council, who was 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 institution. x
Contents - SUMMARY, 1 1 INTRODUCTION AND TASK, 6 2 HANFORD SITE BACKGROUND, 11 3 OVERVIEW OF THE INTEGRATION PROJECT, 40 4 SYSTEM ASSESSMENT CAPABILITY, 51 5 INVENTORY TECHNICAL ELEMENT, 66 6 VADOSE ZONE TECHNICAL ELEMENT, 79 7 GROUNDWATER TECHNICAL ELEMENT, 100 8 COLUMBIA RIVER TECHNICAL ELEMENT, 108 9 MONITORING, REMEDIATION, AND RISK TECHNICAL ELEMENTS, 125 1 0 IMPROVING S&T PROGRAM EFFECTIVENESS, 141 REFERENCES, 154 APPENDIXES A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES, 163 B INFORMATION-GATHERING MEETINGS, 168 C SCALING ISSUES APPLICABLE TO ENVIRONMENTAL SYSTEMS, 171 D ACRONYMS, 180 Xl i