Characterizing and managing groundwater contamination associated with the 828 underground nuclear tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site are among the most challenging environmental remediation issues faced by the U.S. Department of Energy. Although significant long-term stewardship and risk management issues are associated with underground nuclear tests on the Nevada Test Site, of possible equal concern are a smaller number of underground nuclear tests conducted by the United States, 12 total, at eight sites located off the Nevada Test Site. In comparison to the Nevada Test Site, the U.S. Department of Energy has minimal institutional controls at these “offsite test areas” (Offsites) to serve as risk barriers. The corrective action and closure strategy under development for the Central Nevada Test Area and proposed recommendations  concerning long-term stewardship for this and the other Offsites illustrate long-term stewardship and risk management strategies applicable to underground nuclear test areas in the United States. The groundwater flow and transport model for the Central Nevada Test Area, site of the 1968 Faultless underground nuclear test, is the first model accepted by a U.S. state regulator (the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection) for an underground nuclear test area. Recommendations for the Central Nevada Test Area and other Offsites include developing decision support models to evaluate the impacts of future changes of land and water uses on previous decisions involving groundwater-use restrictions. Particularly for the Offsites in arid states such as Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado, it is difficult to envision all future demands on subsurface resources. Rather than trying to maintain complex flow and transport models to evaluate future resource-use scenarios, decision support models coupled with original contaminant flow and transport models could be used as scoping tools to evaluate the sensitivity of previously established resource-use boundaries. This evaluation will determine if the previously established boundaries are still adequate for proposed new land and resource uses or if additional data collection or modeling will be necessary to make technically sound decisions. In addition, previously developed Data Decision Analyses, used to quantitatively evaluate the costs and benefits of different data collection activities conducted during the site characterization phase, could be maintained as a long-term stewardship tool to identify new data collection efforts, if necessary as indicated by a decision support model.
- Nuclear Engineering Division and Environmental Engineering Division
Long-Term Stewardship and Risk Management Strategies for Inactive Nuclear Test Sites in the United States
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Shafer, DS, Chapman, JB, Hassan, AE, Pohll, G, Pohlmann, KF, & Young, MH. "Long-Term Stewardship and Risk Management Strategies for Inactive Nuclear Test Sites in the United States." Proceedings of the ASME 2003 9th International Conference on Radioactive Waste Management and Environmental Remediation. 9th ASME International Conference on Radioactive Waste Management and Environmental Remediation: Volumes 1, 2, and 3. Oxford, England. September 21–25, 2003. pp. 651-657. ASME. https://doi.org/10.1115/ICEM2003-4614
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