Potential Agricultural Impacts of Accidents at a Proposed Plutonium Processing Facility at the Pantex Plant


E. A. Thompson, J. M. Thompson, I. S. Hamilton


When the U.S. Department of Energy proposed the Pantex Plant as one of the possible sites for new plutonium processing facilities, a group was assembled by the State of Texas to independently assess potential risks. One of the State's concerns was the possible impact on agriculture from potential accidents at these proposed facilities. This assessment took potential release source terms from another portion of the study and evaluated the impact for several agricultural pathways. Using the most current ICRP dose conversion factors for inhalation and ingestion, the areas affected at given dose levels were determined for several potential accident scenarios. Derived response levels (DRLs) were calculated that corresponded to protective action guides (PAGs) used in emergency situations (specifically in the intermediate phase of an accident). These values were used in conjunction with the HOTSPOT computer code to determine areal extent of land where the deposition levels for the various accident scenarios, and various deposition pathways, exceeded the DRLs corresponding to particular PAGs. Determinations of the areas affected were made for both DRLs based on the dose to bone surfaces (generally the limiting case for plutonium) and DRLs based on the committed effective dose equivalent. While some of the possible accidents had the potential to affect large areas, those areas were considered to be manageable given available mitigation techniques. The initial assessment of the potential agricultural impact was based on preliminary design data. As the designs for the facilities become better defined, new source terms and accident frequencies will be derived. These new factors will then be used to develop revised assessments of the potential risks to agriculture.


This abstract was presented at the 32nd Annual Midyear Meeting, "Creation and Future Legacy of Stockpile Stewardship Isotope Production, Applications, and Consumption", Environmental Implications of Stockpile Stewardship Session, 1/24/1999 - 1/27/1999, held in Albuquerque, NM.

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