Nuclear Health and SafetySites Used for Disposal of Radioactive Waste in Alaska Gao ID: RCED-94-130FS July 6, 1994
GAO's review of available information on Project Chariot--an experiment conducted in the 1960s by the former Atomic Energy Commission in which radioactive waste was buried in Alaska--suggests that the amount of radioactive material at the site is not harmful to humans. GAO also identified six Army and Air Force installation in Alaska where radioactive materials had either been disposed of or stored on-site. These radioactive materials involved such items as nuclear power reactor cooling water and smoke detectors. In addition, the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory was used by various institutions for research that included the use of radioactive tracers. Amchitka Island, where underground nuclear tests were done from 1965 to 1971, is being monitored by the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Army Corps of Engineers must still determine whether 138 defense facilities no longer owned by the federal government are contaminated by hazardous or radioactive materials and whether remedial action is required. Sites at five other nonfederal facilities that disposed of or stored radioactive materials were also brought to GAO's attention. These involved (1) storage of pipe contaminated with radioactive material resulting from oil drilling and (2) land and ocean disposal of radioactive waste resulting from university research and aircraft manufacturing.
GAO found that: (1) the amounts of radioactive materials at the Project Chariot site do not appear to lead to adverse health effects; (2) the federal government has disposed of or stored radioactive materials at six Army and Air Force installations in Alaska; (3) the radioactive materials at the six sites consist primarily of nuclear power reactor cooling water and smoke detectors; (4) although the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory has been decommissioned and conveyed to a Native American corporation, the Navy plans to perform a radiological survey of the facility in 1994 to determine whether any radioactive materials are present; (5) the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency are monitoring an area at Amchitka Island where underground nuclear tests were performed from 1965 through 1971; (6) the Army Corps of Engineers must determine whether 138 other decommissioned or conveyed defense facilities are contaminated by hazardous or radioactive materials and whether these and sites at five other nonfederal facilities require remedial actions; and (7) of the five nonfederal sites, three have been used to store pipes contaminated with naturally occurring radioactive oil and two have been used to dispose of radioactive wastes from university research projects and aircraft manufacturing.