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May 9, 1986

The Disposal of Low-Level Radioactive Waste-Reply

JAMA. 1986;255(18):2447. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370180072027

In Reply.—  According to the second reference cited above, the mean concentration of soluble plutonium (239Pu) detected at the Maxey Flats site was 0.01 pCi/mL, with a range of 0 to 0.12 pCi/mL (pCi=picocurie=10-12 curies-0.22 disintegrations per minute).1 The maximum permissible concentration for soluble239Pu is 5 pCi/ mL,2 500 times the mean concentration found. A subsequent report3 indicated no off-site migration of plutonium, and an overwhelming percentage of the concentration was in drainage ditches constructed for monitoring purposes and in the top 2 cm of soil, which strongly suggests a surface rather than subsurface vector.As noted in our article, some failures of waste containment have occurred. Extensive study of problems encountered at sites such as Maxey Flats and West Valley, NY, have led to an understanding of why the leakage occurred and also of the means of prevention. Design of any new