Nuclear weapon production during the Cold War has resulted in soil and groundwater contamination at more than hundred locations in the United States. The Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management is responsible for remediation at these sites, which is considered one of the most technically complex cleanup challenges in the world. The overall cost is predicted to exceed $200 billion over the next few decades. After 30 years of remediation, most of the sites are expected to transition from active remediation to site closure. Many of these sites, however, require an extended period of institutional control.
In this project, we propose to establish the new paradigm of long-term monitoring based on state-of-art technologies – in situ groundwater sensors, geophysics, drone/satellite-based remote sensing, reactive transport modeling, and AI – that will improve effectiveness and robustness, while reducing the overall cost. In particular, we focus on (1) spatially integrative technologies for monitoring system vulnerabilities – surface cap systems and groundwater/surface water interfaces, and (2) in situ monitoring technologies for monitoring master variables that control or are associated with contaminant plume mobility and direction. This system transforms the monitoring paradigm from reactive monitoring – respond after plume anomalies are detected – to proactive monitoring – detect the changes associated with the plume mobility before concentration anomalies occur.
The Savannah River Site was constructed during the early 1950s to produce the basic materials used in the fabrication of nuclear weapons, primarily tritium and plutonium-239, in support of our nation’s defense programs.