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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 14 No. 4, p. 501-509
    Received: Apr 22, 1983

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Distribution of Plutonium and Americium Beneath a 33-yr-old Liquid Waste Disposal Site1

  1. J. W. Nyhan,
  2. B. J. Drennon,
  3. W. V. Abeele,
  4. M. L. Wheeler,
  5. W. D. Purtymun,
  6. G. Trujillo,
  7. W. J. Herrera and
  8. J. W. Booth2



The distribution of Pu, 241Am, and water in Bandelier Tuff beneath a former liquid waste disposal site at Los Alamos was investigated. The waste use history of the site was described, as well as the previous field and laboratory studies of radionuclide migration performed at this site. One of the absorption beds studied had 20.5 m of water added to it in 1961 in an aggressive attempt to change the distribution of radionuclides in the tuff beneath the bed. Plutonium and 241Am were detected to sampling depths of 30 m in this bed, but only found to depths of 6.5 to 13.41 m in an adjacent absorption bed (bed 2) not receiving additional water in 1961. After 17 yr of migration of the slug of water added to bed 1, 0.3 to 5.1% of the Pu inventory and 3.0 to 49.6% of the 241Am inventory was mobilized within the 30-m sampling depth, as less than one column volume of water moved through the tuff profile under the bed. The results of similar lab and field studies performed since 1953 were compared with our 1978 data and site hydrologic data was used as a time marker to estimate how fast radionuclide migration occurred in the tuff beneath absorption bed 1. Most of the radionuclide migration appeared to have occurred within 1 yr of the 20.5-m water leaching in 1961. The implications of our research results to nuclear waste management were also discussed.

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