Tag Archives: contaminants of emerging concern

Radioactive Waste Cleanups After the Manhattan Project: Lessons Learned

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 42nd Annual Meeting (SciCon4), 14–18 November 2021

A guest post by Karen Keil, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Nuclear contamination warning sign
Nuclear contamination warning sign, Adobe Stock Image

Radioactivity was first discovered over a century ago (circa 1890s). Within 50 years we were harnessing that incredible power to build an atomic bomb, in an effort to end World War II. However, the Manhattan Project left a legacy of radioactive waste sites. Over the last several decades, we have spent billions of dollars cleaning up the environmental impacts of this waste, with efforts still ongoing. What have we learned from this process? Although radioactive waste products are now considered “legacy” contaminants, back in the day they could have been classified as “contaminants of emerging concern”—substances whose recently discovered environmental consequences pose challenging problems to environmental scientists. What have we learned from the cleanup efforts for legacy radioactive waste? Can we apply the lessons learned to new contaminants?

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