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The radionuclide content of liquid radioactive wastes discharged from commercially operated light-water-cooled reactors in the United States is described on the basis of recent reports by reactor operators and special studies undertaken by Federal agencies. Discharges are discussed in terms of sources of radioactivity and treatment processes at thestations. Effluent values are compared with the model utilized by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The radionuclide at highest concentration is consistently hydrogen-3 (H-3). Annual discharges usually range in the hundreds and thousands ofcuries at pressurized water reactors and up to 100 curies at boiling water reactors. The sum of all other fission and activation products usually totals a few curies per year; cobalt-58 (Co-58), cesium-134 (Cs-134), and cesium-137 (Cs-137) are consistently among the radionuclides at highest concentration. At least two stations have operated several years without significant radioactive liquid discharges.
Analysis of liquid radioactive waste for radionuclide content consiststypically of gamma-ray spectrometry with a germanium (lithium) detector and multichannel analyzer, liquid scintillation counting after distillation for H-3 measurements, and more elaborate radiochemical analysis for strontium-89 (Sr-89) and strontium-90 (Sr-90). Special studies at nuclear power stations have shown the presence of other radionuclides that can be analyzed only by specific radiochemical procedures. Among these are carbon-14 (C-14), phosphorus-32 (P-32), iron-55 (Fe-55), and nickel-63 (Ni-63). Approaches for including analysis of such additional radionuclides are discussed.
radiochemical analysis, radioactive liquid effluent, nuclear power stations, gamma-ray spectral analyses, radiation, environments
Director, Environmental Resources Center, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Ga