Nuclear Waste:

DOE's Handling of Hanford Reservation Iodine Information

RCED-88-158: Published: May 25, 1988. Publicly Released: Jun 21, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) handling of information on detection of radioactive iodine below the surface of the Hanford nuclear reservation to determine: (1) why DOE did not release the information before August 1987; and (2) the effect the information might have had on the selection of the Hanford site as a candidate nuclear waste repository site.

GAO found that: (1) although DOE conducted numerous studies in the past 20 years to determine the migration of radioactive materials through groundwater, it did not coordinate the studies or complete many of the activities and publications; (2) concerns about security, public reaction, and the effect on Hanford as a potential site affected the availability of iodine information; (3) DOE did not use the information in its environmental assessment of the Hanford site, since the information was not made public; (4) at the time Congress eliminated Hanford as a candidate repository site, the issue of groundwater movement was still unresolved; (5) DOE will not conduct planned studies to confirm Hanford's suitability, since the site is no longer under consideration for a repository; and (6) the state of Washington and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded that there was sufficient information to fully evaluate the issue of groundwater movement and iodine migration at Hanford.

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