Comments on a Critique of GAO's Radioactive Waste Ocean Dumping Report

Gao ID: RCED-83-45 December 17, 1982

GAO was asked to review a critique which disagreed with the overall conclusions of a GAO report on the hazards of past low-level radioactive waste ocean dumping. The report concluded that those concerns have been overemphasized and that monitoring past dump sites is of limited value in developing future ocean-dumping regulations.

GAO believes that the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of its earlier report are valid, its presentation of scientific studies and opinion is accurate, and the methodology used is sound. The critique did not address much of the evidence which GAO used to derive its conclusions. It did not mention agency estimates that only small volumes of radioactive wastes have been dumped, nor did the critique recognize that: (1) most of the radioactivity has decayed; and (2) there is an absence of baseline data on radioactivity already present at dump sites when dumping began and a lack of information on specific types, quantities, and locations of radioactive materials that were dumped. Given limited federal funds, GAO believes that any scientific opportunity that might be gained from monitoring past dump sites could be better obtained by monitoring future dump sites. Despite critique assertions to the contrary, the GAO report neither advocated nor opposed a resumption of ocean dumping of radioactive waste. It did agree with a critique's major conclusion that test sites, uncontaminated by past ocean dumping, should be monitored to establish baseline data necessary to effectively monitor the effects of future ocean dumping of radioactive waste.

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