b'C H A P T E R 9H O T S T U F FWe had to keep two feet of dirt betweenBetween 1960 and 1963 the AEC des- of radioactivity handled at the Burialthe solid rock and the barels. Well,r ignated the NRTS, along with Oak Ground went into effect after 1957. Innobody knew how to do that, since we Ridge, as a disposal area for commer- February 1962 nearly two inches of raindidnt know where the rock was and cial radioactive wastes from such fell on snow and frozen ground, causingwhether it laid evenly beneath the sur -places as hospitals and universities. localized flooding. One pit and twoface. So we drilled holes down to the Previously, commercial businesses had trenches were open at the time, allowingrock. Wed measure the hole and thenplaced this material in the oceans, but pools to form, overflow, and carrypour corn seed in the hole to fill the the practice was too costly to continue. dumped items beyond the excavatedbottom two feet. Then when we dug theNo commercial landfill sites were area. After this, a diversion drainagepits, the equipment operators would available anywhere else in the country system was constructed in hopes of pre-come in with cats and cans [tractors at the time. The designation resulted in venting another such episode.equipped with scrapers]. We took all relatively little new waste for the Burial Guidelines were established for fission-that dirt off. When we hit the corn, we Ground, but it provoked NRTS man- able material (U-235, Plutonium-239) toknew we had two feet left to the rock. agers to remind the AEC that the NRTS prevent the possibility of accidental crit-Thats how we dug the pits and kept ourfacility lay over an aquifer. Even icalities. Decades later, analysts study-two feet of dirt on top of the rock. It though the NRTS was taking no undue ing the waste regretted thatworked. It was an HPs idea. risks, the AEC should look for perma- standardization had not arrived earlier;22nent waste disposal sites elsewhere. 24 they could have used better informationThis application of Yankee ingenuity about early waste types and their specif-eventually changed. Later excavations Gradually, improvements and changes ic locations. Early records of what wentwere made to bedrock and then back- occurred over the years. Different types into the trenches were not complete. Butfilled with soil and clay. Another once- of waste were segregated, record keep-practical technique that flourished ing methods grew more sophisticated,during the 1960s also gave way. In procedures and requirements became A crane helps workers unload Rocky Flats barrels in1963, some combination of labor short- more formal. Upper limits on the level 1961. ages (caused by strikes) and fundingproblems led Burial Ground operatorsto start rolling waste drums off thebacks of trucks and let them lay in thepits where they landed. With RockyFlats barrels coming in by the thou-sands, tipping them out was faster andcheaper than manhandling every barrel.The practice, which continued until1969, was further justified by the factthat it reduced potential exposure ofworkers to radiation. The barrels,regarded as settled in their final restingplace, were expected to deteriorateeventually, so the environmental impactof the procedure, which damaged ordented some of the barrels, was regard-ed as of no serious consequence. 23INEEL 61-16508 1'