Answer to Question #10391 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Radioactive Waste Disposal — Low Level Waste

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:

I am trying to collect baseline data for a site that will be used for the disposal of radioactive waste. Which types of sampling (soil, etc.) for gamma spectrometry should I collect? Include detail with some references.

Thank you for your question pertaining to the siting criteria for a radioactive waste disposal facility. An initial step in identifying a candidate site is to understand and evaluate the criteria the site must meet. Siting requirements are part of the regulatory framework for governing the disposal of low-level radioactive waste in the United States and can be found in 10 CFR Part 61. According to §61.50 Disposal Site Suitability Requirements for Land Disposal, "the primary emphasis in disposal site suitability is given to isolation of wastes, a matter having long-term impacts, and to disposal site features that ensure that the long-term performance objectives of subpart C of this part are met, as opposed to short-term convenience or benefits." It further states that "(2) The disposal site shall be capable of being characterized, modeled, analyzed and monitored."

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Regulatory Guide 4.19, Guidance for Selecting Sites for Near-Surface Disposal of Low-Level Radioactive Waste, provides greater detail concerning the site's capability "of being characterized."

Further, NUREG-1388, Environmental Monitoring of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility (1989), provides general guidance on preoperational environmental monitoring. Unfortunately, this guidance does not provide a detailed sampling design and analysis as requested in your question. To that end, I would suggest using the Data Quality Objectives Process for designing an appropriate sampling plan that satisfies the objectives contained in the regulatory framework. An excellent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) resource can be found on the EPA website.

Finally, another useful reference and background document is the NRC NUREG-1853, History and Framework of Commercial Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management in the United States. It is located on the NRC website.

Hope this helps.

Eric Abelquist, PhD, CHP
Answer posted on 29 August 2012. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.