Lab's annual environmental report finds no adverse impact to public health or the environment

Dec. 5, 2007

Lab's annual environmental report finds no adverse impact to public health or the environment

Environmental monitoring of operations at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 2006 indicates no adverse impact to public health or the environment. The findings are presented in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Environmental Report 2006.

The report demonstrates LLNL’s continuing commitment to providing responsible stewardship of the environmental resources in its care and the integration of environmental stewardship into strategic planning and decision-making processes through the Lab’s Environmental Management System.

The report assesses the impact of LLNL operations on the environment, summarizes regulatory compliance and records results of environmental monitoring for the main Laboratory site, as well as for Site 300, the Laboratory’s experimental test facility near Tracy. LLNL’s environmental releases are highly regulated and carefully monitored, where required.

Samples were taken from air, water, vegetation, wine, soil and wastewater on site and in surrounding communities.

In addition to monitoring, the report documents the substantial actions the Laboratory has taken to comply with federal, state and local environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, among others.

The following is a summary of findings in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Environmental Report 2006 . The complete report may be accessed on the Web at . It also is available in the environmental repositories of the Livermore and Tracy public libraries.

  • Air monitoring – Air at the Laboratory and throughout the Livermore Valley and in the Tracy area is monitored by more than 100 instruments at 38 separate locations. Concentrations of all monitored radionuclides and beryllium at all locations were well below levels that might endanger the environment or public health. Emissions of nonradioactive air pollutants from LLNL operations were very low. For example, releases of reactive organics from the Lab’s Livermore site were 0.005 percent of the total Bay Area daily emissions from stationary sources in the entire Bay Area.

  • Wastewater monitoring – Monitoring results for 2006 reflect an effective year for LLNL’s wastewater discharge control program and indicate no adverse impact to the Livermore Water Reclamation Plant or to the environment from Laboratory sanitary sewer discharges. No discharges exceeded any discharge limits for release of radioactive materials to the sanitary sewer. For nonradiological releases, LLNL achieved excellent compliance with provisions of its wastewater discharge permit.

  • Groundwater monitoring – Groundwater monitoring at the Livermore site and at Site 300 and their environs indicates that LLNL operations have minimal impact on groundwater beyond the site boundaries. During 2006, radioactivity and concentrations of elements or compounds detected in groundwater that could be affected by current LLNL activities were found to be within drinking water standards.

  • Soil and sediment monitoring – The impact of LLNL operations on surface soil, sediment and vadose zone soils (the region below the land surface where soil pores are only partially filled with water) in 2006 was insignificant. Most constituents of interest or concern were detected at background concentrations or in trace amounts or could not be measured above detection limits.  

  • Vegetation and wine monitoring – Vegetation and Livermore Valley wine were sampled for tritium. In 2006, the median concentrations in all off-site vegetation samples were below the lower limit of detection. For Livermore Valley wines purchased in 2006, the concentration of tritium was just 0.68 percent of the U.S. EPA’s drinking water standard.

  • Groundwater remediation – Groundwater and soil vapor extraction and treatment at the Livermore site and at Site 300 continue to reduce contaminants in the subsurface from past operations. In 2006, Livermore site treatment facilities removed more than 255 kilograms (560 pounds) of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from soil and groundwater. Since remediation efforts began in 1989, more than 11.8 billion liters (3.12 billion gallons) of groundwater and more than 7.3 million cubic meters (258 million cubic feet) of soil vapor have been treated, removing a total of more than 2,298 kilograms (5,066 pounds) of VOCs. In 2006 at Site 300, approximately 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of VOCs were removed, bringing the total VOCs removed at the site to more than 440 kilograms (970 pounds) since treatment began in 1991. To achieve this, more than 1.31 billion liters (347 million gallons) of groundwater and more than 7.5 million cubic meters (265 million cubic feet) of soil vapor have been treated.

  • Radiological dose assessment – The annual radiological doses from emissions at the Livermore site and at Site 300 in 2006 were found to be well below the regulatory limit for radiation protection of the public. Two methods are used to assess radiological dose. One assesses maximum dose to a hypothetical person living for a year, 24/7, in a location near the Lab where he/she would receive the highest possible radiation dose through the air. The other method assesses collective dose to the population living within 80 kilometers of the Laboratory. The maximum radiological doses that could have been received by individual members of the public from releases to the air from Livermore site and Site 300 operations in 2006 were just 0.04 percent and 0.16 percent of the federal limit, respectively – more than 15,000 times smaller than the dose members of the public receive annually from natural background radiation. The collective doses from LLNL operations in 2006 were about 500,000 times smaller than those caused by natural radioactivity in the environment.

  • Special status wildlife and plants – The Laboratory meets the requirements of various federal and state regulatory acts covering endangered or sensitive natural resources. Five species listed under the federal or California Endangered Species Acts are known to occur at Site 300. Several species considered rare or of special interest by the federal and California state governments also occur at the Livermore site and Site 300.

  • Pollution prevention – In 2006 the Laboratory’s pollution prevention activities received two National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Best-in-Class awards. One was for initiatives at Site 300 that resulted in saving 9.7 million gallons of water per year through recycling, environmental conservation and improved operations efficiency. The initiatives also saved 68,000 kilowatt hours in electric pumping. The second Best-in-Class award was categorized as Official Use Only and was recognized at the NNSA level due to the classified subject matter.

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has a mission to ensure national security and to apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.