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Btjantic and Gulf 
Coastal Waters 


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Publication 655^ 


The Committee on Oceanography was organized In 1957 within the 
Division of Earth Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences — 
National Research Council. Its activities have been jointly sponsored 
by the Atomic Energy Commission, the Bureau of Commercial Fish- 
eries, the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Re- 
search. The Committee's objectives are to assist in the development 
of the marine sciences, to encourage basic research and to advise 
the government agencies on various oceanographic problems. 

The map on fhe front cover is a portion of a chart originally published in Peter 
Goos' De Zee Atlas in 1667. We are grateful to the American Geographic Society 
for loan of the original map and permission to reprint it here. 

\jOifO] lN> vfDL\)e: [AgA)-^ 

Radioactive Waste Disposal 
Atlantic and Gulf/" DOCf^^^tl^T 

Coastal Waters 

Woods Hole Oceanograpj^fc 

A Report from a Working Group of the Committee 

on Oceanography of the National Academy of 

Sciences — National Research Council. 


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Publication 655 

[Rational Academy of Sciences — National Research Council 

Washington, D.C. 

Library of Congress catalog cord number: 59-60046 


Dayton E. Carritt, Chairman , 
The Johns Hopkins University- 

Dean F. Bumpus 

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 

James H. Carpenter 
The Johns Hopkins University- 
Walter A. Chip man 
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service 

John H. Harley 

U. S. Atomic Energy Commission 

Bruce C. Heezen 
Columbia University 

Bostwick H. Ketchum 

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 

Robert O. Reid 

A. and M. College of Texas 


Ho-ward Eckles 
Department of the Interior 

Arnold Joseph 

U. S. Atomic Energy Commission 



Foreword by Roger R. Revelle vii 

Summary 1 

Recommendations 3 

The Problem 3 

Present Sea Disposal Practices 4 

Low Level Wastes Generated Within AEC Facilities 6 

Low Level Wastes Generated Within Government Operations 

other Than AEC 6 

Low Level Radioactive Wastes Generated Within Private 

Facilities 7 

Estimate of the Fraction of the Production of Oak Ridge 
National Laboratories Shipped to Other Than Atomic 
Energy Commission Operations, That Became Wastes for 

Sea Disposal 8 

Previous Studies 8 

The Present Problem 11 

The Basis for Judgment 11 

Why Dispose at Sea? 14 

Transport and Dispersion l6 

Movement of Bottom Sediment 16 

Near-bottom Water Circulation 16 

Surface Circulation 17 

Diffusion Processes 18 

Sustained Gross Source 20 

Instantaneous Source 21 

Continuous Sources at Uniform Leaching Rate 23 

Sorption and Exchange 24 

Permissible Concentrations of Radioisotopes in Sea Water 

and Uptake by Marine Organisms 26 

Possible Conflict with Other Interests 27 

Commercial Fisheries 27 

Submarine Cables 29 

Maximum Rate of Disposal 30 

Pre-Use Survey and Monitoring 30 

Disposal Areas 33 

References 37 



In January 1958, the Committee on Oceanography of the National 
Academy of Sciences - National Research Council was asked to conduct 
a detailed study of the problems of the disposal of low level radioactive 
wastes into the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal w^aters of the United 
States. This request was made jointly by the three government sponsors 
of the Committee: The Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, the U. S. Atomic 
Energy Commission, and the Office of Naval Research.* The Committee 
agreed to take responsibility for such a study, and Dr. Harrison Brown, 
Committee Chairman, asked me, as a member of the Committee on 
Oceanography and Chairman of the Academy's Committee on Effects of 
Atomic Radiation on Oceanography and Fisheries, to call together a 
special working group. This group was asked to consider the levels of 
radioactive wastes that can be disposed of Scifely, the kinds of packaging 
that should be used, and to recommend specific disposal sites. 

A preliminary draft of this report was finished in May 1958 and 
discussed in detail before a meeting of the Committee on Oceanography 
shortly thereafter. The Committee approved the report and authorized 
its reproduction in mimeograph form prior to a similar review by the 
Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation on Oceanography and 
Fisheries, The latter Committee met in March 1959. At that time the 
report was brought up to date and approved in its present form. 

In its study, the group has taken into account the effects of local 
oceanographi c conditions, possible health hazards and the iraportance 
of non-interference with fisheries, recreational and other uses of the 
oceans. The report makes recommendations as to the amounts of dif- 
ferent radioactive isotopes that can be disposed of safely in any one 
area. Twenty- eight possible disposal sites are listed. Before any one 
of these is finally selected, a pre-use survey should be made. The area 
should be monitored periodically after disposal begins. 

The working group has attempted to make its recommendations 
as precise as possible within the limits of our present knowledge of the 
physics, chemistry, and biology of the oceans. Where uncertainties exist 
because of inadequate knowledge a conservative position has been 
chosen — that is, the calciolations underlying the recommendations may 
err on the side of safety. Each assumption and each step in the calcula- 
tions is fully described, however, so that the reader may make an inde- 
pendent evaluation of the degree of conservatism. 

*The National Science Foundation has since become one of the sponsors of the Committee. 

Publication of this report is made possible through the cooperation 
of the National Academy of Sciences - Nationcil Research Council, Earth 
Sciences Division, Committee on Waste Disposal, Advisory to the U. S. 
Atomic Energy Commission, For the results of other NAS - NRC ' 

studies pertaining to the disposal of radioactive wastes, the reader is 
referred to "The Disposal of Radioactive Wastes on Land" NAS - NRC 
Pub. 519, April 1957, and "Thermal Considerations of Deep Disposal , 

of Radioactive Wastes", a specicil report by Dr. Francis Birch, NAS - ' 

NRC Pub. 588, September 1958. 

Reports are also in progress on the disposal of low-level wastes , 

into Pacific coastal waters and on radioactive waste disposal from 
nuclear-powered ships. 

Roger Revelle 

Scripps Institution of Oceanography \ 

La Jolla, California 
May 1959 



A study has been made of the feasibility of using selected areas in 
the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal waters of the United States as 
receiving grounds for the disposal of packaged, low level radioactive 

wastes . 

The primary objective of the study has been to provide an esti- 
mate of the rate of return of radioactive substances to maji, arising 
from stated rates of disposal into the coastal areas. The limiting rate 
of disposal has been taken as that w^hich through a combination of physi- 
cal and biological processes will return the radioactivity to man at a 
rate equal to the ma:ximum permissible rate of ingestion of a given ra- 
dionuclide in drinking water. 

These rates were based on the occupational MFC's (maximum 
permissible concentration) given in Handbook 52 (3). The MFC's for 
the general population according to recent information should be low- 
ered by a factor of 10. The revised MFC's of some isotopes may be 
reduced even further. It is believed, however, that the conservative 
assumptions contained in this report offset the effects of these reduc- 
tions in MFC values. 

The present practice of using 55 gallon steel drums as disposal 
canisters containing the waste nnixed with concrete is estimated to pro- 
vide containment of approximately 10 years, during which time radio- 
active decay will have destroyed all radioisotopes (based upon Oak 
Ridge National Laboratories current rate of production and shipment) 
to below hazardous levels, with the exception of Sr 90, Cs 137, and pos- 
sibly Co 60. 

Coastal circulation is not known in sufficient detail to provide 
quantitative estimates of the rate of transport of a contaminant out of 
any of the areas selected as possible disposal sites. These estimates 
can be made only after detailed circulation studies have been completed. 
Especially lacking is knowledge of the circvilation of bottom waters. 
Nevertheless, several areas stand out as being probably unsuited as 
disposal sites. They are the coastal estuaries and bays, and the regions 
immediately seaward of these areas. Shoreward transport along the 
bottom in these regions would tend to intensify the rate of return of a 
contaminant to man. Also, a region southeast of Long Island, extending 
out to approximately 50 fathoms, appears to have restricted bottom 


circulation during the summer months and therefore might accumulate 
larger quantities of contaminant than other coastal areas. 

A theoretical study of the dilution of contaminant by turbulent 
mixing processes has been made. The results of the study provide the 
means of evaluating the effects of changing environmental parameters 
and of various disposal methods on the dilution of a contaminant. Be- 
cause of the assumptions made all estimates of concentration at a given 
distance and time are probably higher by at least a factor of ten than 
would actually exist in practice. Even with these conservative assump- 
tions calculations show that given a rate of disposal of 100 curies per 
year of uncontained waste into water 30 meters deep with a current of 
5 miles per day, the maximum concentration of waste which will appear 
one kilometer (approximately 5/8 miles) from the disposal site will be 
2 X 10"^ |ic/ml, a concentration that is lower than the maximum permis- 
sible concentration of Sr 90 in drinking water. Sr 90 has the lowest 
MPC vcdue of all radioisotopes listed. In addition, the relationships 
between both relative concentration and time ctfter release and distance 
from the disposal site, under the unlikely condition that no current will 
aid in diffusive mixing, have been developed. 

In arriving at recommended disposal rates the interaction of a 
contaminant with suspended solids and bottom sediments has been neg- 
lected. It was found impossible to make a quantitative estimate of the 
magnitude of this reaction. Neglecting this factor puts a certain factor 
of safety in the recommendations, as sorption onto bottom sediments 
within the disposal area will provide additional containment, thus allow- 
ing for further destruction of the contaminant by radioactive decay. In 
the case of disposal into areas productive in commercially important 
shellfish (oysters, clams, etc.) the sorption onto bottom deposits may 
become a potential hazard rather than a safety factor. This situation 
has been eliminated by selecting areas in which no shell fisheries occur. 

The return of radioactive wastes to mcin by ingestion of contam- 
inated marine food products is considered to be the most likely poten- 
tial source of hazard that could res\ilt from disposal into coastal waters, 
An estimate has been made of the maximum permissible concentration 
of each of several radioisotopes in sea water, below which contamina- 
tion of marine food products will not lead to greater than allowable in- 
take by humans whose sole source of protein is fish. This estimate 
was derived from the maximum permissible concentration of the iso- 
topes in drinking water, from which was computed the maximum 
weekly intake of each of the isotopes; the weekly ingestion rate of fish, 
taken as 1.5 kg, a value that is high compared with the per capita value 
for this country but has been taken on the assumption that some indi- 
viduals obtain all of their protein from fish; and the extent to which 
marine organisms can concentrate the various isotopes within them- 
selves above the level in their environment. The most hazardous iso- 
tope in the list is Sr 90, for which the maximum permissible concen- 
tration in sea water is 8 x 10"^ iic/ml, which by coincidence is identical 
with the MPC value for drinking water. 

Suggested disposal areas have been chosen in an attempt to min- 
imize conflict with submarine cable operation, as well as the purely- 
mechanical problems connected with fisheries activities. 


The panel is of the opinion that certain Atlantic and Gulf of 
Mexico coastal areas can be used as receiving w^aters for the controlled 
disposal of packaged, low level, radioactive wastes. 

Twenty-eight possible locations have been selected (figure 7, p. 34) 
thatcoiild, on the basis of presently available information, be used with- 
out limiting our other uses of coastal waters. The actual choice of dis- 
posal areas should be undertaken within the following limitations: 

1. Prior to start of disposal operations a survey of an area must 
be made to determine details of local circulation and an inventory of 
the biota, especially of bottom-living organisms. 

2. The total quantity of activity that is deposited into any one 
disposal area in any one year should be limited to 250 curies of Sr 90 
or the equivalent of other isotopes. For the equivalent amounts of other 
isotopes see Table II and the accompajiying discussion on page 13. 

3. The total quantity of activity that is deposited in any one area 
during any given month should be limited to 100 curies of Sr 90 or the 
equivalent of other isotopes. 

4. Adjacent disposal areas should be separated by at least 75 
mil e s . 

5. No 300 mile section of coast line should contain more than 
three disposal areas unless predominant currents, both bottom and sur- 
face, indicate that no exchange between areas is possible. 

6. The waste container should be of such construction that no 
part of it or its contents will float to the surface should the container 
be broken. The practice of using steel drums as containers is recom- 
mended as giving appreciable holding time in the disposal area. 

7. Periodically during use, the area should be monitored to pro- 
vide a measure of the spread of radioactivity throughout the region in- 
cluding both the biota and the bottom sediments, and to note changes 
that might be caused by disposal operations. The resxilts of this moni- 
toring may indicate that certain of the above assumptions should be 


The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission has asked the Committee 
on Oceanography of the National Academy of Sciences - National 

Research Council to study the feasibility of disposing of low level, 
packaged, radioactive wastes into the on-shore waters of the Atlantic 
and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States. The areas of special 
interest are closer to shore than the present designated areas now 100 
and more miles out. 

The objectives of the study are to recommend locations that can 
be used safely as disposal areas, together with the limitations on quan- 
tity and kinds of radioactive materials, rates of disposal, and other 
pertinent factors necessary to keep the concentration of radioactive 
substances within permissible levels. 

Of special interest is the use of near-shore regions as disposal 
areas for the low level radioactive wastes generated in university and 
industrial laboratories, hospitals, and research institutions licensed 
by AEC to use relatively small quantities of radioactive materials. 

We emphasize here the term low level wastes . These are broadly 
classified as wastes containing up to the equivalent of millicurie quan- 
tities of activity per gallon. They are distinct from high level wastes, 
such as those obtained from the processing of spent reactor fuels which 
may contain hundreds of curies per gallon. The present study is not 
concerned with the disposal of high level wastes. 


With the increasing quantities of radioactive materials that have 
been used in peacetime applications by both AEC and non-AEC institu- 
tions there has been a corresponding increase in the quantities of low 
level wastes that have no further usefulness, but because they do repre- 
sent a potential health hazard cannot be disposed of by conventional 
methods (municipal incinerators, sanitary dumps, etc.). In the past, 
much of this waste material has been packaged and dumped into desig- 
nated areas approximately 200 miles off the Atlantic Coast in approxi- 
mately 1000 fathoms of water. Much of the material has been carried 
to the disposal areas by navcd vessels during scheduled disposal of 
non- radioactive wastes. In addition, civilian waste disposal concerns, 
licensed by the AEC, have dumped small quantities of low level wastes 
into coastal waters in areas normally used as receiving areas for non- 
radioactive wastes. Recently AEC received several new requests for 
the licensing of civilian marine disposal concerns. 

Table I and figure 1 summarize the sea disposal operations that 
have been conducted along the Atlantic Coast from 1951 to 1958. (1) 
It should be emphasized that the quantities of activity listed were not 
measured at the time of disposal to the sea. At best, they were meas- 
ured at the time of packaging of the wastes, and frequently the values 
reported are estimates made by the users of the material who listed 
the total amount of activity shipped to them, with no allowance made 
for losses during use and for radioactive decay. The quantities listed 
are therefore, unquestionably, larger than the quantities actually depos- 
ited in the disposal areas. 



AEG wastes (U. S. Navy Disposal) 

Government agencies, non-AEC 

(U. S. Navy and Coast Guard Disposal) 

University and industrial labs. 
(Private Disposal) 

Quantity (curies) 

1951-1957 1958-1963 Location (Fig. 1) 



10 + 


25 + 

a. b 

b, c 

d, e, f and 

Data from reference (1) 

These disposal operations can be divided into three broad sub- 
divisions, using the immediate source of the wastes as a criterion. 
They are: 

1 . Low level wastes generated within AEC facilities . 

These constitute, by far, the largest quantities of radioactive 
materials that have been deposited in the Atlantic disposal areas. Since 
1951, 5870 curies of a variety of isotopes contained in 8432 fifty-five 
gallon drums have been disposed of. A rather insignificant fraction of 
this total was deposited in the designated area approximately 200 miles 
due east of Cape Cod, area a, figure 1. Most of it has been added to the 
disposal area approximately 200 miles east of Cape May (Delaware Bay), 
area b, figure 1 . 

The AEC has described the general nature of these wastes as 
follows (1): 

"AEC wastes which are dumped at sea are heterogeneous 
in character and as a rule contain quantities of activity 
normally associated with laboratory experimentation and I 

with decontamination operations. For the most part, they f 

consist of solid materials such as paper wipes, rags, mops, \ 

ashes, animal carcasses and contaminated laboratory para- '.' 

phernalia. Some liquids containing radioactivity in the con- ' 

centration range of microcuries per liter have been incor- ' 

porated in cement mixtures or with chemical gelling mate- 
rials prior to packaging and dumping. Because the wastes 

and their contaminating radioisotopes are heterogeneous in i 

character, it is difficult to determine accurately the total 
quantities of radioactivity involved." 

Most of these wastes have been packaged in fifty-five gallon drums 

with added concrete to insure proper bulk density. The AEC has set i 

specifications (1) (2) for the packaging and handling of contaminated • 

scrap. ^ 

2. Low level wastes generated within government operations other than i 
AEC. j 

Four agencies (the National Bureau of Standards, the Naval 1 

Ordinance Laboratory, the Naval Research Laboratory, and the National 
Institutes of Health) all in the Washington, D.C. area, have since 1955 
generated approximately four curies of heterogeneous wastes that have 
been deposited in a designated disposal area, approximately 75 miles 
east southeast of Cape Henry (Cheasapeake Bay), by the U.S. Coast 
Guard. This is area c^, figure 1. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Beaufort, N.C., has disposed of less thaji 0.2 of a curie of heterogeneous 
wastes, in area d, figure 1, approximately 8 miles off-shore from 
Beaufort, North Carolina. 

3. Low level radioactive wastes generated within private facilities . 

Several industrial concerns and research laboratories licensed by 
AEC to use radioactive materials have either conducted their ov/n waste 
disposal operations or have contracted w^ith licensed marine disposal 
companies to have the wastes carried to sea. The areas in vsrhich low 
level radioactive wastes have been dumped at sea by these operations 
are the unlettered areas in figure 1. Approximately 25 curies have 
been disposed of through these channels, most of it several hundred 
miles off shore. 

In all, something less than 6000 curies were added to the water 
off the Atlantic coast of the U.S. between 1951 and 1958. The exact 
composition of this waste material is uncertain; that is, it is impossible 
to determine the quajitities of various radioisotopes, and in many cases 
the total activity associated with a disposal container is vincertain. By 
far the greatest bulk of this material has been deposited into water 
1000 fathoms or more deep, and in containers that will provide some 
factor of safety to the environment, in that at least a part of the wastes 
will have disappeared by natural radioactive decay before being released 
to the sea. 

A survey of the area that has received most of the wastes, area 
b, figure 1, was made by the Chesapeake Bay Institute of The Johns 
Hopkins University, and the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. The activ- 
ity, beta and gamma counting, of samples of bottom sediments taken 
within the disposal area w^as compared to the analysis of samples 
taken outside of the area. No difference coiild be found. Comments on 
survey methods will be made in a later section. 

The quantity of low level radioactive wastes that will, under ex- 
isting operational procedures, find its way into the Atlantic coastal 
waters is increasing. The off-shore, deep w^ater disposal areas appear 
to be adequate to handle projected quantities of these wastes without 
limiting our other uses of these waters. Of immediate concern to the 
AEC is the increase in the qucuitities of radioactive materials used by 
non-governmental agencies and the increase in the numbers of com- 
mercial marine disposal concerns who are seeking licenses to handle 
and dispose of the low level radioactive wastes into shallow coastal 

In general, marine disposal concerns are at present not equipped 
to carry the wastes several hundred miles to sea, at least not without 
a considerable increase in the cost of the service. The disposal con- 
cerns would like to deposit these wastes in existing or newly designated 
disposed areas in the relatively shallow coastal waters up to approxi- 
mately fifty miles from shore. One concern has, with AEC permission, 
disposed of limited quantities of packaged low level wastes in 50 fathoms 
of water, some twelve to fifteen miles from the coast, area e, figure 1. 

4. Estimate of the fraction of the production of Oak Ridge National 
Laboratories shipped to other than AEC operations, that became wastes 
for sea disposal . 

During the period January 1956 to September 1957, ORNL shipped 
approximately 50,000 curies, measured at the tinne of shipnnent, for use 
by non-AEC facilities. Of this total, approximately 28,759 curies were 
isotopes w^ith short half lives, while isotopes of strontium, cobalt, ce- 
sium, iron, and zinc amounted to 21,141 curies, of which 21,020 were 
shipped as "sealed sources". Assuming that sealed sources (cobalt 
bars, for example, used as radiation sources) will not find their way 
into commercial disposal routes when their initial usefulness has passed, 
121 curies of long-lived isotopes appear as the potential supply that 
might have arrived at dockside for disposal at sea. During the same 
period, an estimated 25 curies (composition doubtful) was actually dis- 
posed of at sea. 

If the assumption concerning the fate of "sealed sources" is cor- 
rect and if the estimate of 25 curies disposed of at sea is correct, then 
approximately 20% of the ORNL shipments of "hazardous isotopes" to 
non-AEC users will eventually appear as wastes for sea disposal. 


Several studies have been made since 1950 that are either directly 
or indirectly concerned with the disposal of radioactive substances 
into the sea. The first of these, published as U.S. Bureau of Standards 
Handbook 52 (3) lists the quantities of each of a number of radioisotopes 
that can be retained safely in the body, as well as the concentration of 
each isotope that can be tolerated in drinking water and in air. The 
maximum permissible body burden, drinking water and air concentra- 
tions are considered to be the levels below which no readily detectable 
biological damage will occur in man under conditions of continual ex- 
posure at those levels. 

Although the recommendations contained in Handbook 52 were 
based upon the best biological and radiological evidence available, the 
authors note that in several cases the evidence available to them was 
scant and that the maximum permissible concentration levels should be 
revised as new evidence becomes available. In this connection Looney 
(9) suggested that the accepted level for radium, which forms the basis 
(in part) for the calculation of the permissible levels of other isotopes, 
is too high and recommends that the radium level be lowered until more 
information becomes available on the effects of radium in man over a 
normal lifetime. 

In calculations made later in this report, the recommended maxi- 
mum permissible levels in Handbook 52 have been used. We realize 
that man does not drink seawater; however, the Handbook 52 values give 
a basis for estimating the maximum permissible rate of ingestion of 
radionuclides that may be contained in marine food products. 

In 1954 a study was made by the sub- committee on Waste Disposal 
and Decontamination of the National Committee on Radiation Protection, 
of the problems connected with the disposal of radioactive materials in 
the ocean. This study was published as Handbook 58 of the National 
Bureau of Standards (4). Although Handbook 58 does not make specific 
recommendations with regard to disposal site locations, rates of dis- 
posal, etc., it does recommend that all radioactive wastes that are to 
be disposed of into the sea be packaged and that disposal be into water 
at least 1000 fathoms deep. These two recommendations form the basis 
for present AEC sea disposal regulations. In addition. Handbook 58 
enumerates the physical, chemical, and biological factors thought to be 
important in regulating the dispersal of a contaminant throughout the 
oceans. However, because of lack of quantitative information, no at- 
tempt was made to combine the various factors to obtain an estimate of 
the level of contamination of the ocean and marine food products asso- 
ciated ^vith stated disposal practices. 

In 1956 the National Academy of Sciences - National Research 
Council organized six committees to study various aspects of the bio- 
logical effects of atomic radiation. The report of one of these Commit- 
tees, the Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation on Oceanography 
and Fisheries, was published in 1957 as Publication 551 of the National 
Academy of Sciences - National Research Council (5). 

Publication 551 gives a detailed account of the state of knowledge 
of the physical, chemical, biological and geological factors involved in 
the interaction of radioactive w^astes, especially fission product elements, 
with the marine environment. While much of this study is concerned with 
the deep oceans, and the massive quantities of materials that will be 
produced as a result of nuclear pow^er production, it is, nevertheless, a 
useful guide in the attempted solution of all problems concerned with 
radioactive wastes and the marine environment. 

Following the 195 6 meetings of the Committee on the Effects of 
Atomic Radiation on Oceanography and Fisheries, but before Publication 
551 was completed, a meeting of several scientists frora the United 
States and the United Kingdom was held, at which there w^as a liberal 
exchange of information concerning the problems of the disposal of ra- 
dioactive wastes in the oceans. At that meeting it was learned that the 
British Atomic Energy Authority plant at Windscale, on the Irish Sea, 
was discharging low level liquid wastes through a three mile long pipe- 
line, directly into the Irish Sea, with authorization to discharge at the 
rate of 1000 curies per month. The basis for the authorization was the 
results of a series of studies giving: (1) the detailed circulation of the 
Irish Sea area immediately seaward from the Windscale plant; (2) the 
uptake of activity by migratory fish that pass through the area; (3) the 
contamination of an edible seaweed that is harvested in an adjoining 
area, estimated from the circulation study and uptake experiments; and 
(4) the level of contamination of local beaches, estimated from the cir- 
culation study. 

It is now believed that as a result of monitoring studies made 
during the build-up to the 1000 curie per month discharge level, and a 
reassessment of the "safety factors" that were included in the original 
studies and recommendations, authorization has been given to discharge 
at the rate of 10,000 curies per month. 

A summary of the discussions at the meeting has been distributed 
under the title "Report of a Meeting of United Kingdom and United States 
Scientists on Biological Effects of Radiation in Oceanography and Fish- 
eries," National Academy of Sciences - National Research Council, Oc- 
tober 31, 1956 (6). A portion of that report is quoted below, as it has 
direct bearing on the studies of the present committee. 

Disposal into Coastal Waters 

Maximum quantities and rates of disposal of radioac- 
tive substances into coastal waters are set, in all cases, by 
two considerations. The first is the transfer of these sub- 
stances back to man and his surroundings. The second is 
the effect upon the marine resources and environment. 

Bulk Liquids 

In coastal waters it will, in general, be possible, in 
proper circumstances, to dispose of wastes in dilute liquid 
form, but the permissible quantities of radioactivity in such 
wastes may be expected to vary considerably from one area 
to another because of the diverse nature of coastal situations. 

A careful study is required to determine the safe 
quantity of each isotope in each situation, including the de- 
tails of the physical, chemical, and biological factors, and 
the habits of the human population potentially affected. 

Continuing studies are required at each disposal lo- 
cality to insure safety, to determine ultimate steady state 
conditions, and to detect possible long term variations aris- 
ing from variability of the environment. 

Such investigations have been carried out over a num- 
ber of years in the Irish Sea and the results indicate that 
fission products can be safely released in that area at an 
average rate of several hundred curies a day; it appears 
likely, therefore, that similar quantities of waste could be 
safely liberated in some other areas. 

In selecting locations for nuclear installations the 
waste disposal problems should be taken into account. Be- 
cause of the additive effects of wastes independently dis- 
charged into the same water mass, the proximity of other 
facilities is an important consideration. 


Packaged Wastes 

Packaged liquids and sludges in containers which can 
rupture and thus liberate their contents to the sea, and solid 
materials of density greater than sea v/ater may also be 
safely disposed of in coastal waters if proper precautions 
are observed. The amount of activity which is dissolved in 
the sea water, or taken up by organisms, from such mate- 
rials is subject to the same limitations as for biilk liquid 

Precautions must be taken to guard against recovery 
by fishing or salvage operations, or transport to areas 
w^here the material could constitute a hazard. Disposal 
areas for such wastes should be in designated locations, and 
all disposal should be adequately recorded and controlled. 


The basis for judgment. 

The request from the Atomic Energy Commission asks essentially 
for a differentiation between safe and unsafe procedures related to the 
dumping of radioactivity into coastal waters. 

The determination of where safe procedures end and unsafe pro- 
cedures begin involves an evaluation of information in two very different 
fields of science. The first is radiation biology, a field that can supply 
information concerning tolerance limits for the quantities of radioactive 
materials that man can have either in his immediate environment or 
within himself, without regard for how it gets there. The second science 
field is oceanography, which can supply a description of the processes 
that can bring radioactive substances from a marine disposal area back 
to man. 

We emphasize here that the very nature of the primary information 
upon which our evaluation is based makes the division between safe and 
unsafe disposal procedures a rather broad region rather than a sharp 
dividing line. Because of this we have, with purpose, adopted a conser- 
vative attitude in our integration of the many pieces of information that 
make up our conclusions. 

Radioactive substances are a potential hazard to man, (1) because 
of radiation received from the immediate environment (external emit- 
ters), and (2) because of radiation received by substances taken into the 
body by ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the skin (internal 
emitters). In both cases the potential hazards may do damage to the 
individual so as to reduce the life span, impair the functioning of parts 
of the body, etc., i.e. pathological damage, or to increase the mutation 
rate w^hich will alter the inherited characteristics in future generations, 
i.e. genetic damage. 


Our present state of knowledge with regard to the pathological 
effects of radiation is given in detail in NAS-NRC Publication 452 (7). 
A summary report of the National Academy of Sciences - National 
Research Council Committee on the Genetic Effects of Atomic Radiation 
was published in 1956 (8). 

The separation of safe from hazardous sea disposal procedures 
must be made, first of all, on the basis of potential hazard to man 
through his normal utilization of the sea, and secondly, on the possibility 
of injurious effect produced in the marine environment itself. 

Our assessment of the quantities and the rates of disposal of low 
level radioactive wastes into in- shore water that will create a potential 
hazard to man, through his uses of the sea and marine products, devel- 
oped from consideration of the natural processes occurring in the ma- 
rine environment that could bring the radioactive wastes back to man 
from suggested disposal sites. We have recognized two mechanisms 
that appear to be the most likely avenues through which this could occur. 
They are: (1) transport of the radioactive wastes from the disposal 
sites to the immediate shoreline, thereby creating a potential hazard in 
man's recreational uses of the coast, and (2) uptake of the radioactive 
waste components by one or more of the trophic levels in the marine 
biota with return to man in commercially important fish and shellfish. 

We wo\ild emphasize at this point that in all cases our separation 
of hazardous from non-hazardous procedures, so far as man's tolerance 
for radiation is concerned, is based upon the Handbook 52 values for 
maximum permissible amounts of radioisotopes in the total body and 
maximum permissible concentrations in water. The latter are for 
drinking water or for submersion in contaminated fluids. These values 
consider only pathological effects. No evaluation of possible genetic 
damage was attempted when Handbook 52 values were compiled. The 
conclusions in this report, then, may need revision if Handbook 52 ma:x- 
imum permissible levels are drastically altered, or when some of the 
xxncertainties introduced by lack of information in our evaluation of the 
oceanographic factors become better known. However, since Handbook 
52 values are thought to be conservative and since our analysis of the 
oceanographic factors presents a conservative estimate of the behavior 
of the environment, as will be described below, we believe disposaJ. 
practices based upon our recommendations have little likelihood of pro- 
ducing a hazard to man's present uses of the coastal waters. 

In the reports of quantities of radioactive substances cdready dis- 
posed of at sea one usually finds only the number of curies recorded. 
Only infrequently are the isotopes listed. Although this is unavoidable 
in many cases, a knowledge of the curie content of a disposal container 
only partially defines the potential hazard of the material. The extreme 
variability in the maximum permissible concentrations of various iso- 
topes in drinking water (3), for example, 2 x lO'^ajid 8 x 10"^ (ic/cc for 
tritium and strontium 90 respectively, emphasizes this point. 


In the discussions which follow we will be concerned primarily 
with strontium 90. The hazard of other isotopes, relative to strontium 
90, insofar as uptaJce by marine organisms and return to man in marine 
food products is concerned, will be given by the ratio of the permissible 
sea water concentration of an isotope to that of strontium 90. Table II 
lists the number of curies of each of a group of selected isotopes, equiv- 
alent to 250 curies of strontium 90, the latter value being the suggested 
maximum yearly rate of disposal of strontium 90 into any one disposal 
area. Also shown are the quantities of each of the isotopes that would 
decay to 250 equivalent curies follow^ing containment of one month and 
of one year. 

The significance of the quantities of isotopes relative to strontium- 
90 is apparent when considering the practical problem of the disposal of 
packages containing a mixture of isotopes. Assume, for example, that 
packages containing v/aste of the follow^ing composition have been added 



Isotope Curies 

no containment 

1 mo. containment 

1 yr. containment 

No 24 

5.0 X 107 






1.1 X 10' 

5 35 

3.1 X 106 

3.9 X 10^ 

5.6 X 10^ 


3.1 X 106 



Co 45 

1.6 X 105 

1.8 X 105 

7.5 X 10^ 


1.2 X 103 

1.9 X 10^ 

3.3 X 10^ 

Co 60 

6.2 X 103 

6.3 X 103 

7.0 X 103 

Cu 64 

5.0 X 10^ 




1.4 X 10^ '^ 

1.5 X 104 

3.8 X 104 





1 131 

9.3 X 102 



Cs 137 

9.3 X 104 

9.3 x 104 

9.3 X 104 

Equivalence based upon ratios of Permissible Sea Water Concentrations. 


to a disposal area; 525 curies of Na-24; 1000 curies of Ca-45; 100 
curies of Fe-59; 100 curies of Co-60; 120 curies of Sr-90; and 1000 
curies of Cs-137. The total number of curies amounts to 2,845 well 
over the suggested yearly limit of 250 curies of Sr-90. Obviously, the 
relative hazard to man, considered in the route that might return the 
waste to him from the disposal area through marine food products, will 
be less for the mixture than for strontium- 90. If the quantities of each 
of the isotopes above are multiplied by the ratio of the maximum per- 
missible sea water concentration of strontium-90 to that of the isotope, 
the sum of results assuming no containment is approximately 148 
curies. This figure, which is a more realistic measure of the potential 
hazard of the waste than the 2,845 curies, includes the effect of MPC 
values for each isotope and the concentration factors from sea water to 
marine food products. 

Why dispose at sea? 

There are two ways of handling radioactive materials to prevent 
them from becoming a hazard to man. One is by c ontainment , which 
has as its objective the retention of the material in such a manner that 
it does not get into the human environment, at least until natural radio- 
active decay has reduced the quantity of material to below^ permissible 
levels. The other is by dispersal, which has as its objective the dilu- 
tion of the waste to below permissible levels before it becomes a part 
of the immediate human environment. 

Within limits, procedures can be established so that disposal into 
coastal waters can tatke advantage of some of the desirable features of 
both methods of handling the wastes. The advantage of containment can 
be achieved by proper canister design. Presently used canisters are 
reclaimed 55 gallon steel drums which have an expected life, so far as 
corrosion by sea water is concerned, of approxiraately ten years (10). 

The factor of safety introduced by ten year containment is shown 
in Table III, in which the percents of the initial activity remaining after 
ten years and the maximum permissible concentrations for drinking 
w^ater are listed for a group of isotopes including high yield, long-lived 
fission products and the isotopes that are shipped from Oak Ridge 
National Laboratories to licensed users. 

Two features of Table III should be emphasized. First, isotopes 
having long half life, that is, relatively large amounts remaining after 
ten years, and low MPC values are those that may produce the greatest 
potential hazard to man. Second, the MPC values are drinking water 
values and we are concerned here with sea water. Although not directly 
applicable to the present problem, these MPC values will be used later 
in modified form. 

The practice of mixing contaminated materials into concrete 
which is then cast into the steel drum, provides for containment 




Percent after 

MPC (3) 

Percent after 

MPC (3) 


10 years 



10 years 






4.2 X 10-3 

6 X 10-2 



3 X 10-3 



7 X 10-5 



8 X 10-3 



8 X 10-7 



2 X 10-^ 






5 X 10-3 





1 X 10-2 





5 X 10-^ 









3 X 10-5 





1.5 X 10-3 



4 X 10-3 





2 X 10-2 


1.3 X 10-2 

4 X 10-2 



1 X 10-^ 




MPC for mixtures of isotopes of unknown composition is IQ- |ic/ml. 

beyond the life of the steel drum. On the other hand, experiments de- 
signed to test the effect of hydrostatic pressure on disposal containers, 
indicated that voids in concrete may, at depths of a few hundred to a 
thousand meters, permit implosion of the steel drum and fracture of 
the concrete, thereby bringing about premature release of contaminant 
to the sea. 

The tests of canisters -which have been performed have been con- 
cerned with disposal into at least 1000 fathoms of water where pressures 
in excess of 3000 pounds per square inch w^ill be encountered, whereas 
we are concerned here with water depths up to approxinmately 30 fathoms 
where pressure less than 100 pounds per square inch will be encoun- 
tered. Although there is some doubt as to whether presently used con- 
tainers remain intact after disposal to the sea bottom, proper design 
and testing can provide the necessary information. 


After release to the sea, following intentional introduction of 
liquid wastes or after rupture of a canister, the concentration of the 
waste will be continually diminished by dilution brought about by the 
natural turbulent mixing processes that occur in the sea, and the mix- 
ture of waste and sea water will be moved from the disposal site by 
oceaji currents. An evaluation of the extent of dilution together with 
processes that might combine to return the wastes to man are discussed 


The movement of a contaminant from the disposal area and its 
dilution with sea water will be controlled by circulation in and adjacent 
to the disposal site and the natural turbulent mixing processes in the 
sea. Obviously, the bottom water circulation in the immediate area of 
the disposal site will control the initial movements of the soluble and 
finely divided waste as it diffuses from the ruptured canister. 

Movement of Bottom Sediment 

The mechanisms and patterns of bottom sediment transportation 
on continental shelves are poorly understood. The general circulation 
of the near-bottom water does not wholly control the movements of 
bottom sediments since tides, waves, storm surges and tsunami impose 
controls which may in fact outweigh in importance the average circu- 
lation of near-bottom water. Important in such considerations is the 
recent conclusion independently proposed by several groups studying 
the sediment budget of North Sea beaches that up to half the sediments 
contributed to certain advancing beaches has been derived off shore 
from the floor of the North Sea. The possibility thus exists that detri- 
tal waste may reach adjacent beaches in undesirable quantities. 

The base of effective wave action has been variously estimated at 
30 feet to 900 feet. The discovery of strong scour on seamounts and on 
the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to depths of 2000 fathoms has been interpreted 
as evidence that there is no effective wave base. On the other hand, 
most geologists believe that really intense wave action is limited to the 
upper 30 to 100 feet of the ocean. Because movement of bottom mate- 
rials can be quite independent of the average water circulation since it 
partly depends on wave action and not wholly on water transport, it 
must be considered separately. Before extensive inshore dumping is 
commenced, it wo\ild seem desirable to dump harmless trace material 
and observe from what distances appreciable material reaches the ad- 
jacent beaches. 

Near-bottom Water Circulation 

Sub- surface circulation has not been studied with svifficient detail 
to provide a basis for reliable prediction of the direction and speed of 
transport at all seasons of the year in any location that might be chosen 
for a disposal area. Evaluation of bottom circulation must be inferred 
from observations of salinity and temperature distributions, and 


measurements of surface drift, the latter largely from drift bottle ex- 
periments. A few direct measurements of bottom currents have been 
made from lightships. 

Our knowledge of bottom water circulation along the Atlantic Coast 
may best be summarized by the following four items: 

a. There is an area extending from south of Nantucket 
Shoals westward to the offing of New York from about 30 fathoms to 50 
fathoms which appears to be somewhat isolated from the general circu- 
lation pattern. Following the vernal development of the pycnocline this 
lens of water retains its winter characteristics, remains in the same 
geographic location and does not become modified until the autumn over- 
turn. There appears to be restricted interchange of some of the water 
seaward with slope water. In other words this portion of the continental 
shelf below the pycnocline tends to stagnate for about six months of the 

b. Observation posts on lightships reveal a mid-summer 
inshore movement of bottom water along the coast from Virginia to New 
Jersey and subsequent upwelling, presumably due to offshore movement 
of surface w^aters due to wind shear. How far inshore from the light- 
ships this intrusion occurs we do not know. 

The observations also suggest a downwelling during the 
coldest parts of the winter when waters next to the coast chill to low 
temperatures, and subsequent offshore movement when resulting densi- 
ties reach below those of the adjacent offshore waters. This mechanism 
appears to occur in areas farthest from river mouths where the salinity 
inshore is highest. This phenomenon has been observed at Ncuitucket 
Shoals where the bottom offshore movement was deduced to reach 2 
miles per day (4 cm/ sec) and south of Long Island where chilled coastal 
water contributed to the offshore lens of cold water. 

c. The pycnocline develops only very weakly in the coastal 
areas south of Cape Hatteras, allowing greater vertical mixing here 
than to the north where the pyncnocline is better developed. 

d. Bottom flow in the areas seaward from the mouths of 
estuaries can be expected to be shoreward, with intensification of shore- 
ward movement during seasons in which the land drainage into the estu- 
ary is at a maximum. 

Surface circulation . 

The movement of surface waters, sumraarized below, will be im- 
portant to the distribution of contaminant after diffusion and transport 
from the bottom have brought the contaminant into the surface waters. 

a. At the seaward end of all coastal estuaries the surface 
flow can be expected to be seaward with a tendency toward southerly 
flow along the coast adjacent to the estuary. 


b. In general the circulation in the Gulf of Maine comprises 
a counterclockwise eddy. The drift along the Maine-Massachusetts 
coast is southerly, on the order of 2-6 miles per day (4-13 cm/sec). 
The southerly part of the circulation, in Massachusetts Bay, is com- 
prised of two drifts, one counterclockwise around Cape Cod Bay, and 
one across the mouth of Massachusetts Bay toward the outer coast of 
Cape Cod and thence southerly. The drift from Georges Bank is gener- 
ally west during the spring and summer but more offshore and perhaps 
even easterly during the autumn and winter. 

c. South of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York the 
coastal drift tends to be westerly, 3-5 miles per day, (6-11 cm/sec) and 
from the offing of Ne"w Jersey southw^ard to Cape Hatteras the set is 
southerly with speeds varying from 3-15 miles per day (6-32 cm/sec). 

d. From Cape Hatteras to Georgia the surface non-tidal 
drift tends northeasterly at speeds of 0.2 to 12 miles per day, (.4 to 26 
cm/ sec) with the highest concentrations of drift bottle strandings on the 
southern side of the Capes. From Georgia to Daytona Beach the set 
appears to be southerly and from Daytona Beach south the drift appears 
to be northerly (unpublished data). 

e. Redfield and Walford (11) noted that ". . wastes likely to 
be transported to beaches in the surface layers should be carried at 
least 10 miles to sea if contamination of beaches is to be avoided." The 
percentage frequency of strandings of drift bottles from areas off the 
U.S. coast, figure 2, indicates the variation in what may be construed as 
onshore or offshore areas of drift. The contours extend farthest off- 
shore in the Gulf of Maine and south of Nantucket. They bend in towards 
the mouths of the Hudson River, Delaware and Chesapeake Bays. On 
the other hand, on either side of the mouths of these estuaries the fre- 
quency of returns is high. Note also the high percentage of returns from 
bottles dropped from Georgia southward. 

Diffusion Processes 

In addition to the gross transportation of contaminants by perma- 
nent and semi-permanent ocean currents, the mechanism by which a 
contaminant will move from the bottom if current velocities are zero 
at the water-bottora interface is obviously important. This mechanism 
is diffusion controlled. Similarly, once the contaminant is contained in 
water its dispersion and subsequent dilution will also be controlled by 
turbulent diffusion processes. So far as can be discovered, there are no 
direct measurements of diffusion-controlled processes within the areas 
of interest that can be used to evaluate the relative importance of these 
mechanisms to the movement of the contaminants. It is possible, how- 
ever, to treat the problem theoretically, by imposing a number of sim- 
plifying assumptions which give a result that is not an accurate descrip- 
tion of the diffusion process, but does give limiting values of the 
concentration of contaminant in the sea. Reid (12) has examined several 
cases in which the following assumptions were made: 



a. The radioactivity in sea water is not depleted by adsorp- 
tion by the bottom solids, or by the uptake of marine organisms. 

b. Natural radioactive decay has been neglected. 

c. The diffusion process is considered to be Fickian. 

d. The ocean is considered to be of uniform depth. 

The assumption of Fickian diffusion implies that the dispersion of 
a contaminant at distances from the source is much slower than is know^n 
to occur. The assumptions of no adsorption by bottom solids and marine 
organisms, and no radioactive decay obviously lead to an overestimate 
of the concentration of contaminant. 

Several cases are considered, corresponding to possible conditions 
of release of the contaminant to the sea. These are summarized below. 

Sustained Gross Source . This case is analogous to the continued 
release of a contaminant, at a known rate, as from the end of a pipe, or 
the diffusion of contaminant from ruptured canisters, under a steady 
state condition of supply and rupturing of canisters. 

Considering a bottom disposal area of dimension L x L, over 
which the water depth is D, with a uniform current of speed U parallel 
to the coast, and a diffusivity coefficient K, the maximum concentration 
of contaminant Cm along the axis of the current at distance x from the 
source, (when x is large compared with L) for a rate of supply Q, is 
given by: 


"■ 2D vzmix 

The maximum concentration at various distances as evaluated 
from equation (1) are listed in Table IV for the following conditions: 

Rate of supply Q = 100 curies per year (274 mc/day) 

Depth of water D = 30 meters (90 feet) 

Diffusivity coefficient K = 1 cm^/sec 

Current velocity U - 10 cm/sec (approx. 5 n. mi/day) 




X (Km) C^(|ic/ml) 

1 2 X 10-7 

2 1.6x10-7 
4 1 X 10-7 • 

10 7 X 10-8 

20 5 X 10-8 

40 3 X 10-8 

100 2 X 10-8 

It has been estimated that because of the assumptions under which 
equation 1 was developed, the concentrations listed in Table IV are 
certainly high by at least a factor of 10, and probably by a factor of 100. 

Instantaneous Source . This case is analogous to the sudden rup- 
turing of a cubical canister on the bottom under the assumption that all 
of the contaminant is then free. Assuming no current to aid in dispersal, 
the reduction in concentration at the canister due to diffusion processes 
is given by: 

C --^ 

4 (TrKt)3/2 

where, C = the concentration at time t 

C = initial concentration 

V = volume of canister 

K = diffusivity coefficient 

The ratio of the interim concentration to initial concentration as 
a function of time for the specific case of K = 1 cm2/sec, V = 190 liters 
(volume approx. 50 gallons) is given in figure 3. It is seen that 0.01 
curies contained initially in approximately 50 gallons, Cq = 54 pc/kg, 
would be reduced to approximately 2 |ic/kg in 1 hour and to 0.06 ^ic/kg 
in 10 hours. 


(K=lcm2/sec, V= APPROX. 50GAL OR 190 LITERS) 

O.lhr ihr I Ohrs 

3 4 5 6 7 891 



D = 00 


In addition to the time- concentration relationship, it is of interest 
to know the effect of distance from disposal site on the concentration 
for point sources. The maximum relative concentration (C/Co) as a 
function of distance from the site is shown for three cases in figure 4. 
Curve 1 assumes infinite depth of water, curve 2 assumes that the ratio 
of water depth to canister size is 100, and curve 3 assumes infinite 
depth and that all of the waste is not immediately available but diffuses 
from the ruptured canister at a uniform rate under the conditions that 
the diffusion coefficient through the ruptured canister is 10'" that of the 
diffusivity in the water. The latter case is discussed below. 

Continuous Source at Uniform Leaching Rate . This case treats 
the situation analogous to the diffusion of contaminant from the concrete 
that remains after the steel casing has corroded and affords no further 
containment. In the development of this case, it has been assumed that 
the amount of contaminant diffusing through the permeable concrete 
walls is directly proportional to the surface area of the container, di- 
rectly proportional to the difference in concentrations inside and imme- 
diately outside the container, and inversely proportional to the thickness 





(l)Mox C/Co 'or 
^Instantaneous "Bo* Source 
on Bottom, D^to 





Q)llila» C/Co for _ 

Instanlonacus "Bo* "Source 
en Bottom, D/a - 100 






\ \\ 

Q)C/C0 for Continuous "Boi" 
Source at uniform Leaching 
Rote, D'ca, tt/K^tQ-^ 








\ \ 
















of the wsills. The effective diffusion coefficient through the walls is 
teiken as the molecular diffusivity times the porosity of the walls, and 
in nunnerical computations is assumed to be lO'^cm^/sec. The relative 
concentration- distance relationship is shown by curve 3 in figure 4. 

Reid further shows that under the condition of continual supply of 
canisters to a disposal area ajid given the assumptions noted above, the 
time required to reach a steady state between rate of disposal and leach- 
ing rate will be fourteen years. That is, only after fourteen years will 
the quantity of contaminant released to the w^ater be equal to the rate at 
which contaminant is deposited on the bottom in canisters. If the life of 
the steel canister is ten years, as noted previously, the time to reach 
steady state would then be an additional ten years, or a total of twenty- 
four years. 


Coastal waters in general contain relatively large quantities of 
suspended solids. The solids are in part living organic materials, the 
plankton, and in part suspended, inanimate, organic and inorganic solids. 
A portion of the latter are materials being carried seaward by land 
drainage sources and will ultimately become bottom deposits. Another 
portion, that usually near the ocean bottom, is periodically brought into 
suspension by tidal action and storm-generated turbulence. All these 
materials including the "bottom" have a measurable tendency to adsorb 
(remove from solution) and to hold substances dissolved in the water. 

The sorptive properties of these solids are extremely variable. 
Neglecting for the moment uptake by marine organisms, the quantity of 
nnaterial adsorbed by a given weight of suspended inorganic solids will 
depend upon the mineral composition of the solids, the composition of 
the solution in which the solids are suspended, and the past history of 
the solids. All of these factors are nearly impossible to evaluate quan- 
titatively for conditions likely to be found in nature. 

Although impossible to evaluate quantitatively, it seems certain 
that sorption processes will play a major role in controlling the dis- 
persal of radioactive wastes once they are free of the canister. This 
conclusion is based upon the results of a few laboratory studies, in ad- 
dition to qualitative field observations made during bomb tests and by 
the British at their disposal operation in the Irish Sea. The details are 
given in NAS-NRC publication 551, chapter 6 (5), and are summarized 

1. Partial removal of mixed fission products from solution was 
achieved by centrifugal separation of naturally occurring solids from a 
contajninated solution. 

2. The sorption of phosphate, iodide, iron III, strontium, sulphate, 
eind copper II onto Chesapeake Bay sediments has been measured under 
a variety of environmentad conditions. With the exception of iodide, ap- 
preciable removal from solution by the solids was observed under all 


3. Sorption onto selected clay minerals has been studied and is 
recommended as a means of solution decontamination, under certain 

4. The differences in coraposition between marine sediments and 
the solids carried to sea by rivers is attributed to exchange and sorp- 
tion reactions between the solids and dissolved substances during sedi- 

5. The sediments in the area around the end of the discharge line 
from the British Atoraic Energy Authority processing plant at Windscale 
on the shore of the Irish Sea, show a relatively large accumulation of 
radioactive substances. 

Although some of this information is quantitative it cannot be ap- 
plied directly to the dispersal problem we are considering. Neverthe- 
less, since radioactive waste components and naturally occurring sus- 
pended and deposited solids generally exhibit exchange and sorption 
reactions; and since the disposal canisters will be partially or perhaps 
completely buried in bottom deposits during the time the waste com- 
ponents are escaping from them, it seems inevitable that these reac- 
tions will have a major influence in controlling the rate of dispersal 
and ultimate distribution of the wastes. 

These sorption and exchange reactions appear to us to be a safety 
factor (an exception is noted below) in disposal problems. So far as 
uptake by permanent bottora deposits are concerned the effect is that of 
achieving additional containment time, thus providing for greater radio- 
active decay than would be achieved by containment only in the canister. 

There is at least one situation in which sorption onto bottom de- 
posits may represent the development of a possibly hazardous situation. 
This is the situation in which bottom areas adjacent to a disposal site 
are the source of marine food products such as oysters, clams, mus- 
sels, etc. In this case accumulation of wastes on the bottom would pro- 
vide for a greater level of contamination of the food product than would 
occur in the absence of sorption and exchange with the bottom. Our 
recommendation of a complete survey of a proposed inshore disposal 
area prior to the start of disposal operation will help preclude the de- 
velopment of such a hazard. 

Because we are unable to make a qucintitative estimate of the 
magnitude of uptake on suspended and deposited solids, we have neg- 
lected this factor in our evaluation of the quantities of wastes likely to 
be found in the water and in marine food products for various rates of 
disposal of radioactive wastes. We believe that by neglecting this 
factor our recommendations concerning disposal rates include a safety 
factor of at least 10, and possibly more. 



We have noted previously that we consider the return of radio- 
active wastes to man in the form of contaminated marine food products 
to be the most serious potential hazard that might be created by the use 
of near-shore areas as disposal sites. 

The ability of aquatic organisms to concentrate certain substances 
within themselves at higher levels than exists in their environment is 
w^ell known. From earlier studies involving the concentration of the 
major nutrients, carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus by phytoplankton and the 
aquatic plants, and the passage of these materials from plants to amimals 
through successive prey - predator steps, we have a generalized picture 
of the nutrient cycles in which many kinds of aquatic organisms are in- 
volved. Following these early studies with the major nutrients, several 
of the trace metals that appear as minor but essential nutrients were 
studied, and recently the behavior of radioisotopes of several biologi- 
cally important elements has become known. This information was 
discussed in detail in NAS-NRC publication 551, chapters 7, 8, and 9 
(5). Using this information, plus the results of studies completed since 
1957, we can estimate the quantities of many radionuclides that will be 
contained within a variety of aquatic organisms when their environment 
contains stated concentration of the same nuclides. 

We have combined this information regarding the probable quan- 
tities of radionuclides in commercially landed fish with figures for max- 
imum permissible concentrations in drinking water, to obtain the quan- 
tity of radionuclides that will be returned to man in marine food pro- 
ducts, as follows: 

1. The MPC values (3) are based upon acquiring a permissible 
body burden of a given radionuclide, below which no observable biolog- 
iccd damage will occur, by drinking approximately 15,000 milliliters 
(15 liters) of water per week, at MPC levels, for 30 years. Thus, the 
MPC Vcdues permit the calculation of a permissible weekly intake for 
each of the nuclides listed. For example, the MPC value for Sr^O is 

8 X 10'^ M.c/ml. We calculate the permissible weekly intake of Sr90 to 
be 1.2 X 10-2 ^c. 

2. Using the permissible weekly intake as calculated above and 
figures for the quantity of fish eaten per person per week, it should be 
possible to compute the msLximum permissible concentration of any 
nuclide in fish. 

In contrast to the drinking of water, man's seafood eating habits 
are extremely variable. According to Taylor (13) the average U.S. con- 
sumption of seafood is approximately 10 pounds per year. Comparable 
figures for other countries are France, 20; Great Britain, 48; Japan, 
111 pounds per year. The average consumption of seafood, however, 
has little significance since large proportions of the population live far 
from the sea coast ajid eat little or no fish or other marine products. 


A man would have to eat approximately four pounds of fish weekly in 
order to match the average U.S. protein consumption. It has seemed to 
us reasonable to taJke a value approaching this as the extreme case of 
an individual subsisting almost entirely on fish as the source of protein 
in his diet, and have used 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) per week in further com- 
putations. For example, for Sr^^, using 1.2 x 10"2 |ic, computed above, 
as the maximum permissible weekly intake of nuclide and 1.5 kg as the 
weekly consumption of fish, we compute 8 x 10 "3 p,c/kg as the maximum 
permissible concentration of Sr^O in fish. 

3. Next, having the maximum permissible concentration of a 
nuclide in fish and the concentration factor achieved by fish for the 
nuclide we compute the maximum permissible concentration for the 
nuclide in sea water. Again using Sr90 as an example, the maximum 
permissible concentration in fish of 8 x 10'3 |ic/kg, combines with a 
concentration factor of 10, assuming the density of fish to be 1.0, to 
give a maximum permissible concentration in sea water of 8 x 10 "4 |ic/ 
liter or 8 X 10'^ |ic/ml, which by coincidence is identical with the MPC 
value in drinking w^ater. 

4. These computations are summarized by the relationship: 
MPC X D = PSC X f X F 


MPC = maximum permissible concentration in 
drinking water (|ic/ml) 

D = volurae of water drunk per week, taken 

as 15,000 ml 

PSC = permissible sea water concentration (|ic/ml) 

f = concentration factor by the organism 

F = weekly consumption of fish, taken to be 1.5 

kg, ctnd assuming a density of 1.0, to be 
equivcuLent to 1,500 ml. 

Computations, outlined above, have been made for a number of 
radionuclides, including the major isotopes shipped from ORNL, as well 
as several of the more hazardous fusion product elements. These com- 
putations are summarized in Table V. 


Commercial Fisheries 

Many areas along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States 
have well developed, active fisheries. The disposed of radioactive wastes 
in these areas might be objectionable, not only because of the possibility 




1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 

Maximum weekly Concentration 

MFC (tic/cc) dose (^c) RFC (lic/gm) factor PSC (^ic/ml) 







C 14 

3 X 10-3 


3 X 10-2 




8 X 10-3 


8x 10-2 


1.6 X 10-1 


2 X 10-4 


2 x 10-3 

4x 104 

5 X 10-8 


5 X 10-3 


5 X 10^2 


1 X 10-2 


1 X 10-2 


1 X 10-1 


1 X 10-2 

Co 45 

5 X 10-4 


5 X 10-3 


5 X 10-4 


5 X 10-2 


5 X 10-1 




4 X 10-3 


4 X 10-2 


4 X 10-6 

Co 60 

2 X 10-2 


2x 10-1 


2 X 10-5 


8x 10-2 


8 X 10-1 

5x 103 

1.6 X 10-4 


6 X 10-2 


6x 10-1 

5x 103 

1.2 X 10-4 


8 X 10-7 


8 X 10-6 


8x 10-7 

1 131 

3 X 10-5 


3 X 10-4 


3 X 10-6 

Cs 137 

1.5 X 10-3 


1.5 X 10-2 


3 X 10-4 

Ir 192 

9 X 10-4 


9 X 10-3 



1. Handbook 52 values (3). 

2. From MPC and weekly ingestion rate of 15 liters of water. 

3. Permissible fish concentration. From maximum weekly dose, and weekly ingestion rote of 1.5 

kg of fish. 

4. The concentration factors for the soft tissues of vertebrates or invertebrates, whichever is 

higher, from Revel le and Schaeffer (5). In all cases, except P 32, figures are for inverte- 
brates; vertebrates are lower by a factor of one half to one tenth. 

*Maximum factor for plankton species. Ketchum and Bowen (in press). 

**Data for soft tissues of oysters. Chipman (unpublished). 


of contamination of the fish, with the development of a potential hazard 
to consumers, but also because the accumulation of disposed containers 
on the bottom might create a hazard to fishing equipment, especially to 
trawl gear that wovild become damaged or possibly lost if dragged over 
heavy concrete disposed, containers. Furthermore, if radioactive dis- 
posal areas are to be closed to fishing, as they undoubtedly should be, 
it is in the interest of the best uses of our marine resources that dis- 
posal areas be placed where little or no fishing now occurs. 

In some areas the fishing intensity is well defined. This is the 
case in the coastal area northward from Long Island and including the 
Gulf of Maine. Most coastal estuaries have well developed fisheries. 
Thus, such areas as Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Albemarle Sound 
cLnd Pamlico Sound are undesirable locations for disposal sites not only 
because of the shoreward transport in the bays smd the restricted circu- 
lation in the soxinds, but also because of possible conflict with the fish- 

The region east and slightly south of Long Island between the 30 
eind 50 fathomi contours, in which fishing vessels are unlikely to be found, 
coincides with the region noted previously to be characterized by "sum- 
mer stagnation". The lack of fishing effort in this area suggests it as a 
possible location for disposal sites. However, the restricted circulation 
through the region for about six mionths of the year suggests that during 
the times of "stagnation" an accumulation of wastes might occur in the 
area to such an extent that adjoining areas might be adversely affected 
once circulation is restored following the fall turn-over. At best, re- 
gions of this kind shoxild be used as disposal sites only after a careful 
study of the year round exchange of water with adjoining areas. 

Unfortunately, detailed studies have not been made over the en- 
tire Atlantic and Gulf coasts. However, it seems likely that appropriate 
information can be obtained, for any proposed site, from state and local 
fisheries groups. 

In general the trend is toward the development of fisheries in 
deeper and deeper water. At present very little fishing is done beyond 
100 fathoms. However, experimented fishing has been carried on out to 
1000 fathoms, and indications are that with cin increased demand for fish 
and with the developmient of the proper fishing gear, these relatively 
deep areas can support a considerable fishing effort. 

Submarine Cables . 

The disposal of packaged radioactive wastes in areas through 
which submarine cables pass will be objectionable from two points of 
view. First, there is a possibility of damage to the cable should a dis- 
posal container fall directly on it during disposal operations. Second, 
during cable maintenance and repair it is common practice to drag 
grappling equipment across the ocean bottom to locate the cable and to 
bring it to the surface. An accumvdation of disposal containers on the 
bottora in such a location not only co^lld interfere with the grappling 


operation but might result in the premature rupture of a disposal con- 
tainer with possible esqjosure of personnel to measurable radiation. 

The location of submarine cables gdong the east coast of the 
United States is shown in figures 5 and 6. Proposed disposed sites have 
been chosen in areas not crossed by cables. 


The maximum rate of disposal shoiild be such that permiissible 
sea water concentrations are not continuously exceeded. Several 
problems arise when this criterion is applied to practical disposal oper- 
ations. Firstly, disposal is a discontinuous process and even though 
activity will probably leach slowly from disposal containers for quite 
some time following rupture of the canister, it is highly unlikely that 
the rate of supply of activity to the water will be constant. How then 
should we average such a process? Secondly, the flux of contaminant 
from a disposed container will decrease as the amount of contaminant 
in the container decreases, producing an effect similar to that noted 
above. Thirdly, only a small fraction of the total volume of coastal 
waters will actually pass directly over a disposal area, although a 
much larger fraction of the total volume will be available for dilution. 
Most of these problems involve the averaging of concentrations that 
will be above and below permissible sea water concentrations for un- 
known lengths of time. 

We have solved this problem by using the boundaries of the dis- 
posal area as the spatial limit beyond which the concentration of con- 
taminant should never exceed the permissible sea water concentration. 
Using the relationship shown in equation 1, (p. 20) and assuming that a 
disposal Ccinister will not contain more than 2 curies (approximately 
the limit set by ICC regxilations), we find that for a disposed area 2 
miles in diameter (the size of several suggested disposal areas), a dis- 
posal rate of between 200 and 300 curies of strontium 90 per year will 
keep the concentration below the permissible sea water concentration 
at the disposal area boundary. We have chosen 250 curies of strontium 
90 or its equivalent. 


A precise evaluation of the quantity of radioactive substances 
that will be returned to man as the result of a stated rate of disposal 
into any one of the selected areas cannot be given. The recommended 
maximuna rate of disposal (250 curies of Sr 90, or its equivalent) will, 
even under the most unfavorable combination of circumstances, result 
in concentrations of contaminant outside the disposal areas below per- 
missible levels. 

In order to obtain essenticd information not now available that wdl 
permit full utilization of the disposal areas without limiting other uses 
of coastal waters, the committee reconnnnends, (1) a survey of any area 
prior to disposal operations, and (2) the monitoring of an area subsequent 
to the beginning of disposal operations. 




Atlantic and east 
Mexico coasts C 
TO Cu 







Atlantic Coast 
Cape Hatteras to Nova Scotia 

FIG. 6 



The pre-use survey should be designed to provide the following 

(1) Detailed circulation, including seasonal variations, in and 
adjacent to the disposal area, conducted so as to permit an evaluation 

of the dilution afforded by turbulent mixing within the area and transport 
from the area by ocean currents. 

(2) Measurement of the seasonal variations in the kind and quan- 
tities of aquatic organisms within and adjacent to a disposal area, es- 
pecially organisms attached to or living in the bottom. These may con- 
centrate or move components of the wastes and so act first as a con- 
tainment element and second as a convenient indicator, during subsequent 
monitoring operations, of the spread of activity throughout the disposal 
area and of possible "leaking" out of the disposal area. 


(3) Analysis of bottom sediments for mineral types, especially 
for components known to have high absorptive capacities, e.g. the clays. 

(4) Analysis of bottoin organisms and bottom deposits for exist- 
ing radioactivity. This will be low prior to disposal, being primarily 
from natural activities and fall-out. The analysis should be conducted 
so as to distinguish between naturally occurring K40 and C14 and man- 
made isotopes, especially Sr90. 

(5) The existence of comraercial and sports fishing activities 
within and adjacent to the selected area, determined by reference to U. S. 
Fish and Wildlife records and state and local authorities. 

Monitoring of a disposal area at intervals following the start of 
disposal operations will be essential to the safe and efficient use of an 
area. Monitoring procedures should include the collection of both 
bottom living organisms and bottom sediments, and analysis of each for 
radioactivity. The frequency of sampling and the methods of analysis 
should be such that estimates of the following can be made: 

(1) the containment provided by disposal canisters; 

(2) the distribution of waste components in the biota and the 
bottom sediments; 

(3) the existence of a steady state involving disposal rate and dis- 
tribution within the disposal area. 


Suggested disposal areas are shown in figure 7, and their exact 
location listed in Table VI. 

Inasmuch as there are a number of disposal areas presently 
available, designated as "explosives dumping area" or "dumping ground 
(by permit only)", some of which have been used heretofore for the dis- 
posal of low level radioactive wastes as well as for certain toxic chem- 
ical wastes, we have included these areas in the list of suggested sites. 
We have numbered the sites 1 to 12. Alternative sites have been marked 
with the subscript a^ or _b indicating that they might be used as secondary 
disposal areas but are more inconvenient to reach than the primary dis- 
posal area. 

Most of the dumping areas are large: 10x10 miles, 10 miles in 
diameter, or the like. We have indicated the centers of these areas, 
with one exception. Additional sites listed might be two miles in diam- 
eter centered on the positions given. Sites presently listed in "A special 
report on disposed of radioactivity into Atlantic Ocean waters— past, 
present, and predicted", U.S. A. E.G. Division of Reactor Development, 
November 1957, are marked with an *. 




To serve Boston, Massachusetts : 

]* 42°25.5'N 70°35'W 312 ft. 2 miles in diameter, marked "Foul Area, Explosives" presently 
used by Crossroads Marine Disposal Company, 22 miles from Boston, Chart 1207. 

la* 41°33'N 65°30'W 6000 ft. "Explosives Dumping Area" 10 x 10 miles square. Chart 71. 
To serve Providence, Rhode Island : 

2 41°19.7'N 71°063'W 48-90 ft. Rocky ledge known as "Browns Ledge" 10 miles from 

Sakonnet, Rhode island. Chart 1210. 

2a 41°14'N 7l°25'W 110-126 ft. 2 miles in diameter marked "Danger, Unexploded Depth 

Charges, May 1952", 10 miles from Pt. Judith, Rhode Island, Chart 1210. 

2b 40°45'N 70°52'W 202 ft. "Explosives Dumping Area, Disused". 10 x 10 miles square, 
45 miles from Sakonnet Point, Rhode Island, Chart 71,1108. 

To serve New York - Delaware Boy: 

3 39°26.7'N 73°56.6'W 80 ft. "Danger Area" 2 miles in diameter 22.5 miles from Atlantic 

City, Chart 1217. 

3a* 38°30'N 72°06'W 7200-9000 ft. "Explosives Dumping Area" 10 x 10 miles square, 118 
miles 098°T from Five Fathom Bank Lightship, Chart 1000. 

3b 38°05'N 73°24'W 5580-6360 ft. "Explosives Dumping Area" 10 x 10 miles square, 70 

miles 127°T from Five Fathom Bank Lightship, Chart 1109. 

To serve Norfolk, Virginia: 

4 36°49'N 75°27'W Wreck 9-1/4 in 66 ft. 37 miles from Little Creek, Chart 1109. 

4a 37°19'N 74°15'W 3000-4800 ft. "Explosives Dumping Area" 10 x 10 miles square, 73 
miles 074°T from Chesapeake Lightship, Chart 1109. 

4b* 36°30'N 74°18'W 6000-7500 ft. "Explosives Dumping Area" 10 x 10 miles square, 74 
miles 113°T from Chesapeake Lightship, Chart 1109. 

To serve Morehead City - Beaufort, North Carolina : 

5 34°26'N 76°54'W 77-81 ft. A "tear up" area according to "Report of North Carolina 

Shrimp Survey", Institute of Fisheries Research University North Carolina, January 
1951. 22 miles from Morehead City, Chart 1234. 

To serve Savannah area : 

6 32°20'N 79°55'W 60 ft. "Dumping Ground (by permit only)" 8.5 miles diameter, 20 miles 

136°T from mouth of North Edisto R., Chart 1111. 


TABLE Vl-Continued 

6a 32°00'N 80°30 'W 60 ft. A poor bottom for fishing. 18 miles from Ft. Screven, Chart 1240. 

6b 32°15'N 78°40'W 120 ft. "Explosives Dumping Area", 10 miles diameter, 70 miles from 

Charleston, South Carolina, Chart 1111. 

To serve Jacksonville, Florida: 

7 30°33'N 81°09.2'W 67-70 ft. "Wreck, 42' Reported", 18 miles from Mayport, Chart 1243. 

7a 30°37'N 79°53 'W 1800 ft. "Explosives Dumping Area, Disused", 83 miles from Mayport, 

Chart nil. 

To serve the Florida peninsula: 

8 26°05.5'N 80°02.5'W 3600 ft. 2 miles east of Port Everglades Sea Buoy, Chart 1248. 
To serve Pensacola - Mobile Bay: 

9 29°48'N 87°33'W 138 ft. "Dumping Ground" 35 miles from Pensacola, Chart 1 1 15. 

9a 29°48'N 87°10'W 600 ft. Rough ground not suitable for trawling, 34 miles from Pensacola, 

Chart 1115. 

9b 29°22'N 87°15'W 1800 ft. "Explosives Dumping Area, Disused", 10 x 10 miles square, 

Chart 1115. 

To serve New Orleans, Louisiana : 

10 28°40'N 89°51 'W 600 ft. Rough ground, not suitable for trawling, 26 miles from Southwest 

Pass, Chart 1116. 

10a 28°30'N 89°10'W 1800 ft. "Explosives Dumping Area, Disused", 10 x 10 miles square, 
30 miles from South Pass, Chart 1115. 

10b 28°25'N 88°55'W 3600 ft. "Explosives Dumping Area", 10 x 10 miles square, 36 miles 
from South Pass, Chart 1115. 

To serve Galveston, Texas : 

11 29°00'N 94°35'W 54 ft. Southernmost corner of a 5.5 x 1 1 mile rectangle. "Dumping 

Ground (by permit only)" 21 miles from Galveston Entrance, Chart 1116. 

11a 29°22'N 93°40'W42ft. Rectangular 4 x 9 miles "Dumping Ground (by permit only)" 
19 miles from Sabine Pass, Chart 1116. 

lib 27°40'N 93°30'W 1500 ft. "Explosives Dumping Area, Disused" 10 x 10 miles square, 
100 miles 175°T from Galveston Entrance, Chart 1116. 

To serve Corpus Christ!, Texas : 

12a 27°15'N 96°00'W 1500 ft. "Explosives Dumping Area, Disused", 10 x 10 miles square, 
65 miles 122°T from Aransas Pass, Chart 1117. 



1. A special Report on Disposal of Radioactivity Into Atlantic Ocean Waters: Past, 
Present, and Predicted. Division of Reactor Development, U.S. Atomic Energy- 
Commission, Washington 25, D.C. November 1957 

2. Packaging of Contaminated (Radioactive) Scrap for Disposal. U.S. Atomic En- 
ergy Commission. New York Operations Office, Health and Safety Laboratory, 
70 Columbus Ave., New York 23, N.Y. (not dated) 

3. Maximum Permissible Amounts of Radioisotopes in the Human Body and Maxi- 
mum Permissible Concentrations in Air and Water. Handbook 52. U.S. Depart- 
ment of Commerce, National Bureau of Standards (1953) 

4. Radioactive Waste Disposal in the Ocean. Handbook 58. U.S. Department of 
Commerce, National Bureau of Standards (1954) 

5. The Effects of Atomic Radiation on Oceanography and Fisheries, National 
Academy of Sciences - National Research Council. Publication 551 (1957) 

6. Report of a Meeting of United Kingdom and United States Scientists on Biologi- 
cal Effects of Radiation in Oceanography and Fisheries. National Academy of 
Sciences - National Research Council, (mimeograph) Oct. 31, 1956 

7. Pathological Effects of Atomic Radiations. National Academy of Sciences - 
National Research Council. Publication 452 (1956) 

8. The Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation. Summary Reports. National Acad- 
emy of Sciences - National Research Council (1956) 

9. Looney, Wm. B. Effects of Radium in Man. Science, 127 No. 3299, p. 630 (1958) 

10. Uhlig, H. H., Corrosion Handbook. John Wiley and Sons, pp. 383-390 (1948) 

11. Redfield, A. C. and L. A. Walford, A Study of the Disposal of Chemical Waste at 
Sea. Report of the Committee for Investigation of Waste Disposal. National 
Academy of Sciences - National Research Council. Publication 201 (1951) 

12. Reid, R. O. An Analysis of Dispersion of Radioactivity from Local Sources on 
the Sea Bed. (Unpublished) 

13. Taylor, Harden F. A Survey of Marine Fisheries of North Carolina. Univer- 
sity of North Carolian Press. Chapel Hill, North Carolina 555 pp. (1951) 



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