Characterizing Tritum Waste Using Helium Ratios

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When routine sampling revealed greatly elevated tritium levels (3.14 x 105 Bq/L [8.5-million pCi/liter]) in the groundwater near a solid waste landfill at the Hanford Site, an innovative technique was used to assess the extent of the plume. Helium-3/helium-4 ratios, relative to ambient air-in-soil gas samples, were used to identify the tritium source and initially delineate the extent of the groundwater tritium plume. This approach is a modification of a technique developed in the late 1960s to age-date deep ocean water as part of the GEOSECS ocean monitoring program. Poreda, et al. (1) and Schlosser, et al. (2) applied this ... continued below

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7 pages

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Ovink, R. W.; McMahon, W. J.; Borghese, J. V. & Olsen, K. B. February 27, 2003.

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  • WM Symposia, Inc.
    Publisher Info: WM Symposia, Inc., P.O. Box 13023, Tucson, AZ 85732-3023
    Place of Publication: Tucson, Arizona
  • CH2M HILL, Inc.
    Publisher Info: CH2M HILL, Inc., 3190 George Washington Way, Richland, WA 99352 (United States)
    Place of Publication: Richland, Washington
  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (U.S.)
    Publisher Info: "Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, 3110 Port of Benton Boulevard, Richland, WA 99352 (United States)"
    Place of Publication: Richland, Washington

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When routine sampling revealed greatly elevated tritium levels (3.14 x 105 Bq/L [8.5-million pCi/liter]) in the groundwater near a solid waste landfill at the Hanford Site, an innovative technique was used to assess the extent of the plume. Helium-3/helium-4 ratios, relative to ambient air-in-soil gas samples, were used to identify the tritium source and initially delineate the extent of the groundwater tritium plume. This approach is a modification of a technique developed in the late 1960s to age-date deep ocean water as part of the GEOSECS ocean monitoring program. Poreda, et al. (1) and Schlosser, et al. (2) applied this modified technique to shallow aquifers. A study was also conducted to demonstrate the concept of using helium-3 as a tool to locate vadose zone sources of tritium and tracking groundwater tritium plumes at Hanford (3). Seventy sampling points were installed around the perimeter and along four transects downgradient of the burial ground. Soil gas samples were collected, analyzed for helium isotopes, and helium-3/helium-4 ratios were calculated for these 70 points. The helium ratios indicated a vadose zone source of tritium along the northern edge of the burial ground that is likely the source of tritium in the groundwater. The helium ratios also indicate the groundwater plume is traveling east-northeast from the burial ground and that no up-gradient tritium sources are affecting the burial ground. Based on the helium ratio results, six downgradient groundwater sampling locations were identified to verify the tritium plume extent and groundwater tritium concentrations. The tritium results from the initial groundwater samples confirmed that elevated helium ratios were indicative of tritium contamination in the local groundwater. The measurement of helium isotopes in soil gas provided a rapid and cost- effective technique to define the shape and extent of tritium contamination from the burial ground. Using this soil gas sampling approach, the project team was able to identify areas where elevated tritium existed in groundwater without going to the time and expense of conducting conventional groundwater characterization sampling. The savings from this characterization approach were $1.4 million.

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7 pages

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  • Waste Management 2003 Symposium, Tucson, AZ (US), 02/23/2003--02/27/2003

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  • Report No.: NONE
  • Grant Number: NONE
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 825929
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc785923

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Creation Date

  • February 27, 2003

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Dec. 3, 2015, 9:30 a.m.

Description Last Updated

  • April 6, 2016, 2:51 p.m.

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Ovink, R. W.; McMahon, W. J.; Borghese, J. V. & Olsen, K. B. Characterizing Tritum Waste Using Helium Ratios, article, February 27, 2003; Tucson, Arizona. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc785923/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.