1946-10-01 Meeting discussing the dumping of radioactive Sand into SF Bay, Puget Sound, LA, San Diego, Pearl Harbor, Norfolk etc.

Navy Reports that document the dumping of nuclear waste directly into San Francisco Bay as well as other Navy Bases, the orders, correspondence, etc.


San Francisco Naval Shipyard
Meeting at 1100, 1 October 1946.
Present were:
Dr. F. H. Rodenbaugh
Dr. K. 3. Scott
Capt. W. E. Walsh (MC) USN
Capt. Wynn, USN
Capt. Lemler, USN
Capt. Maxwell, USN
Lt. Comdr. Turnbaugh, USN
Lt. Comdr. Skow, USN
Lt. Chadbourn (MC) USN
Lt. (jg) Morton (MC) USN
Lt. Howell, USNR
Mr. Hammond
Mr. Gordon
Comdr. Hoffman


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Maxwell: We called this conference together to make certain recommendations to’ BuShips on the means and methods to decontaminate salt water piping based on experiments conducted at this Yard – using ammonium citrate solution and muriatic acid solution. We found that muriatic acid removes all the foreign matter and activity. It does a complete job. The ammonium citrate does a similar job to a lesser extent – about 90% of the activity is removed. We found a medicine that can be used – it may not be the best, etc.

Dr. Scott and Dr. Rodenbaugh, are you in a position to give us a few answers that we are after – when should we use this medicine – what standard should we use – when should we use the acid and when should we use the citrate thru the salt water system?

Rodenbaugh: You mean as to how much radiation you have in the systems? You may ask me from a medical point of view, but ask Dr. Scott about the physical aspects.

Maxwell: Dr. Scott?

Scott: You are putting me on the spot. I think before we get right down to this concrete problem as to when we should use this medicine, I am still trying to get clear what I had hoped an earlier conference would accomplish – that is to weld this large incompletely connected unit into a little more tight organization so that we can function to the point where what the Lab in Berkeley has to offer can be more readily used by the Navy. I feel that even now we are not informed to the extent we should be in order to give you the maximum amount of advice that we could. I think someone, preferably someone who is a radio chemist, should be given more or less some type of directing authority so that we can coordinate on these various activities which are going on in about three different places. I recommend Mr. Morton, who is here now, for this position. He has had a lot of training in this field ‘-nd is in the service. Experimental work of this nature should be under observation by a radio chemist so that we always get the maximum of information from it.

The other thing I think should be done is the type of thing Dr. Hamilton suggests – that is, we should repeat these findings that we have done on the underwater body and perhaps welding on salt water lines so that we are absolutely certain that we are right. One true experiment doesn’t mean it is a fact. On the hull cleaning programs, what appears to be safe should be checked several times in order to be absolutely sure we are right.

With respect to the exact question – when should we decontaminate ships? I think everyone realizes that the radiation behind a pipe which gives you 1/10 R a day over a long length may eventually turn into a lethal dose of radiation. This might’ conceivably occur if you had a trans-location of radioactive matter so that it all collected in one spot. You may then unduly expose personnel getting into this spot. The question is, where can we set the limit? We cannot say it 1/10 R a day. Dr. Hamilton thinks 1/100 R a day, which he seems to think is safe. He certainly would change his mind in view of other facts which
he does not know at present. For instance, is there a normal trans-location of solid matter in pipe lines,

I don’t have a recommendation to give unless I can get more facts. I don’t know if rust can move from one side to another, – I don’t know the mass involved – or that we can actually get this activity in one pile.

I would like to make quantitative measurements of the total radioactivity in a ship’s system before setting any limit to which we should strive in decontamination. Then I think that someone like Dr. Rodenbaugh can tell us whether or not it is dangerous.

I think that so far the work has been considerably well controlled. Considering the different groups of people that have gotten together, we have done a very satisfactory job, but I do think perhaps BuShips and our group at Berkeley and someone in Captain Walsh’s office should get together and more or less plan any large experiments which are done from beginning to end before the decisions are made so that we can have the benefit of the services of the three groups.

The other thing is a question of dissemination of information. I am never aware just what the monitors have done. I think we should have more system and some one person become the organizer of this thing so that


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the various groups can get full information when it is available.

Maxwell: You mentioned Dr. Morton?

Scott: He would be the logical choice to properly consider these problems and see the various sides of it since he is in the services. I would suggest him to be the go-between man. He is in a position to see everyone’s side of the question. I do think you should have other people represented. You have people such as Turnbaugh and someone in the medical angle – these people could get together and in a very short conversation could decide whether or not something could be done. We don’t have as much point to our meetings here as a group of 2 or 3 men. The Yard chemists should also get into this – he is doing the industrial chemistry.

Walsh: We could set up an organization now – get a group together – Morton, Chadbourn, Skow (representing me), Turnbaugh, Mr. Gordon.

Morton: In order to determine all these things, Dr. Scott has bought out, I feel that first of all the mutual interchange of information is the most important thing, and we all have to get together in getting this information. In other words, the monitors are going to help the Lab. at Berkeley, Berkeley help the Lab. here, etc. We want to find out whether or not a ship is a radiological hazard. To do so we have to have the monitorings. We want to see how it is monitored so that we can have some idea what is going on. Those parts that are hot tagged and we want to see that samples are taken for the Lab. Whoever happens to be the “leg” man should go along with the monitors and present his ideas and arrive at some idea as to the practical method to be used. That way, we can calculate the volume, size, location and total mass of debris. We can get together with the men in BuShips who know the possibility of translocation of the debris – actually what the possibilities of its accumulating in one place. We can get together with the medical men and together determine whether or not the ship should be decontaminated. Once that is determined – whether or not the ship is to be decontaminated – the Lab. again comes into the point of view in determining whether or not decontamination has actually been achieved.

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Maxwell: Dr. Morton could assume responsibility of coordination between the Yard and the University, be under It. Commander Skow’s supervision, insofar as monitoring of ships is concerned.

Morton: We don’t know all the difficulties arising in monitoring – we can’t give you the information you seek unless we can get together.

Maxwell: Captain Walsh, monitoring is just a rough indication of what we are really after – the alpha emitters – is that right?

Walsh: That’s right.

Scott: I don’t think 1 would use the word “rough” – it is a peculiar situation – the relationship of alpha to beta and gamma. It is the final word as far as a ship is concerned. It is almost precise as far as clearance goes. However, I think that we are going to have to go to the Lab. to test these methods of decontamination to know precisely what we are doing. One thing I would like to bring out – Captain Maxwell made the statement that hydrochloric acid works better than possibly citrate. That may be true, but I can’t say it is true unless I have done it twenty times. The alpha problem if riddance isn’t made now will remain a long time, ami it is quite poisonous. Some Laboratory such as we have must check these things as true before a decision can be made.

Maxwell: You are now checking muriatic acid to see if it removes the alpha as well as the other?

Scott: Yes, we are running as assay now on acid samples taken from one of the yard’s decontamination process. We can get an alpha count to see how effective the acid is. We have checked this particular point with the citrate, and we are sure that it takes out the alpha as well as the other emissions which show on the monitor’s instrument. Before any decisions or statements are made, there should be facts. V/e should be sure that everybody in this group agrees that they are facts. Everyone can scrutinize the statements in this case. The acid story is not complete until we have done all the laboratory work on it, although the monitor may say that the acid treatment has reduced his readings to zero.


Turnbaugh: This matter of setting up an organization, and of conducting large scale experiments, also of calculating total radioactivity on ship is going to take considerable time to organize, time to run experiments, and considerable time for making conclusions from it. The immediate problem is to pin down a low radioactive limit to strive for. Can we for the present go ahead on the decontamination of the ships based upon some definite outside (gamma) value which you are sure is safe?

Scott: If 25% of the ship’s salt water lines read more than 1/100 R per day, this ship should be decontaminated.

Turnbaugh: We can use that basis now and clear what ships are in here.

Scott: If we can get the answers which we are asking we can sit down and figure out what sort of hazards we might have. Then we can set a low limit.

Rodenbaugh: We are in a different position than we were while in Bikini.

Scott: I would say we are about 60% along the road of completion.

Tombaugh: How soon do you think you will have the assay complete on the acid solution you have? We have to make our decision between the muriatic acid and the citrate.

Scott: I think this afternoon, we were fortunate in getting Mr. Morrison from Washington who is now doing the assay. The reason I come to this group is to present the attitude of “what do you want to know” so that I can find out what you need and try to deliver it to you. How far do you want the Lab, to go in research, etc.? I want to find those things out so that we can find out how it can be done.

Walsh: I was talking to Dr. Lyon yesterday and asked him to pass his information to a certain party – that long range policy is a little out of my field. The decision has to be made for benefit of BuShips and BuMed.


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Maxwell: I would like to hear from Dr. Rodenbaugh.

Rodenbaugh: I have the impression that the great interest that we have in going over these ships is to find the amount of activity we are dealing with before we can fix the hazard. The activity is not smoothly distributed in the salt water lines – you would have a difficult time estimating how much radiation you have. I sat with a medical board to get some sort of an over-all view. Each ship was different and had to be discussed individually. The decision wasn’t easy to make – you could not measure the substance and so the operation was stopped at Bikini. The health hazards of radiation – I have seen a lot of late reactions. I would be very loath indeed to feel that we should take any chance on these hazards until we know more about it. The only protection you have against these things is to stay away from it. As long as it is in the pipe it is all right, but when you take it out that is when you get into trouble. There is a tremendous amount of radiation material on these ships. We still don’t know just how much these ships have on them. The pipe lines and the outside hull are two different things.

Scott: The hull – we are safe and my recommendation was, that we could clean ships one hundred times as active as the one we had (LAFFEY). My suggestion was that the sand be dumped at sea. The activity is mixed up in many tons of sand. What we have to avoid is getting this activity in a very small concentrated area. It would seem to me that that operation could be perfectly safe, but on pipe lines we want to be sure that we are doing it in the right manner.

Maxwell: To get back to the question of piping, would it be possible that we take a representative of the pipes aboard ship that’s well known to be most contaminated. For example, I would say the auxiliary injection is one of the most contaminated – we take that as a representative section. Then, take one from the evaporator brine and maybe one from the flushing system. Open those pipes and remove the representative section of debris for analysis. Couldn’t you work up some kind of a survey so that we can use that as a guide on whether to decontaminate other ships?


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Scott: Yes. I suppose BuShips knows where scale and rust tends to collect – Where the scale and rust collects is where the activity will collect.

Howell: The bad part of that was illustrated on the BENEVOLENCE. Two feet away from a hot spot reading of 0.9 gamma there is a negligible reading. There seems to be an accumulation around flanges, joints, valves, etc.

Scott: We have to find these places, and I would suggest that these places be minutely gone over.

?: On these ships here, where they had these different heavy marine growth, would that show up on the instruments ?

Turnbaugh: Yes – it definitely showed hotter reading than other places.

Morton: I would like to interject what has been brought up – samples in the lab are of no value unless this information is coordinated. It so happens that we do not get a homogeneous example. We must know if we are to give you the information on whether or not to decontaminate.

Turnbaugh: As long as these active spots are scattered around, it seems that the job of calculating total activity in a ship to determine whether or not to decontaminate is going to be a big job. It seems simpler to decontaminate the whole ship.

Scott: You will have a high manpower cost one way or the other.

Turnbaugh: After we decontaminate you can easily get total activity from our used solution.

Lemler: There are three types of ships involved: Active Ships, all of which have operating schedules. This is of most importance and at the same time safety cannot be disregarded. I would suggest that we decontaminate those ships down low until you get to a low figure that’s safe beyond a shadow of a doubt. Any information collected during the process will be of value for future ships.


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The second group: Deactivated ships. Time isn’t so important so you can do some experimentation; because time is not so important, a planned, controlled experimentation.

Third group: I think your big experimentation can go forward on the target ships that are coming in here.
The sole purpose of bringing them here is to see what happens and how you can cure these things. The information you have gathered on the first and second groups you can apply to this third group, taking as much time as you need.

We have our instructions from BuShips as to what to do. It seems to be working so, if we are reasonably sure of being right in the procedure for cleaning the ship up, let’s continue on these active ships. We will take out readings as before, and let Dr. Walsh clear the ship using the standards he has; but we will forget the experimentation work on those ships except for collecting data as to what was done. We will on a productive basis comply with BuShips directives in decontaminating.

Scott: I don’t really think there is any difference in an experiment and really cleaning* up a ship. As far as your difficulty in cleaning up pipe lines, I would have suggested a little different procedure which might have saved you time.

In that manner we could not act as consultants. Every time we do a job it is an experiment. I think the entire group is aware of such work. Really, these things are all experiments in a sense. By experimentation I don’t think it was meant that we would set this ship aside and keep it as a place where we could work out ideas as they occur to us. Since we have had long experience with the field we are well aware of what is actually happening in those pipes than is someone who is now in this sort of thing.

Maxwell: Commander Hoffman is here from Washington. He has had some experience in this decontamination, at Bikini.

Hoffman: About all we came out for is to see what you are doing. At the present time, what Admiral Solberg particularly wants is to develop a procedure that we can issue as a


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step by step method to any Yard or a ship, and that we are sure will be clear and concise enough to do the results beyond the question of being safe. He wants to take the ROCKBRIDGE particularly to work out such a thing as Dr. Scott suggested – to clean her up so that we can forget that she was ever active.

Maxwell: Let us appoint Commander Hoffman and Dr. Morton to work with the Yard and Berkeley to get this thing rolling. In conclusion, we will recommend to the Bureau these two solutions – the ammonium citrate and the acid if it is favorable (when we hear from Dr. Scott). The yard is to continue with experiments to develop a better method if it is possible. I think with Dr. Morton being in the picture we will get some data which will be of use in preparing definite instructions for decontamination work.

Walsh: I think the next point is to decide about the ROCKBRIDGE.

Maxwell: Go ahead with the decontamination work on ROCKBRIDGE.

Walsh: You propose to use acid on salt water systems?

Maxwell: We must get the answer from Dr. Scott as to whether or not the acid is as effective in removing the alpha particles as the gamma and beta. We know that ammonium citrate does remove the alpha particles, although it doesn’t remove sea growth as well as the acid.

Wynn: Do you propose to work the whole system over?

Maxwell: Yes. Is that agreeable? The experimental work will be done at Hunter s Point,

Scott: I don’t see why we can’t get a lot of valuable information out of work that’s being done elsewhere. You are setting up a laboratory at these other yards, are you?

Maxwell: No – just this one. Of course, there will be monitors at the other yards. The other yards are exclusively on the west coast – Puget Sound, Terminal Island, Mare Island.

Lemler: What do we do with the hydrochloric acid – can we pump it at sea 10 miles out?

Scott: It gets diluted there so you don’t care if it is active.


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Turnbaugh: We have been considering trying to filter that,

Scott: I rather feel the major part of the activity is dissolved in the acid.

Lemler: A question: we take a section of pipe out and with the idea of replacing it. Our present plans are to take the old pipe to sea and dump it even though the readings say it is not particularly dangerous. Is this for security reasons?

Scott: It may not be dangerous, but if all the rust and scale inside that pipe gets into one lump you could conceivably have a lot of radiation.

Rodenbaugh: It is difficult to get rid of radioactive matter. It may be a lot cheaper to dispose of a valve than to try to get rid of the radiation hazard on the valve.

Maxwell: Dr. Scott, one more point to be clarified – before we start decontaminating these salt water systems we should have a standard, and that standard was not determined – just a figure that was pulled out of the air. I understand that there is a possibility that the scale and debris may get into one lump and that will cause trouble. Couldn’t we find out the amount of activity in the ship – some method we could find out such as the total area of the pipe system, and also the amount of debris in these pipes?

Scott: It seems to me that we could work up some sort of a usable method. We could sample a solution from one of the decontamination jobs. If we know we have removed 90 to 98% of radioactivity in this process then we know how much radioactivity there was in the lines treated. I think you could then assume on a similar ship if you have a similar monitor’s report you know how much activity there is. The other way would be to sample the pipe at enough points and get at it that way. A calculated result. That was the type of thing I was going to try to get for you if you could get in these areas. For example, we take the HENRICO – we know by a sample that the rust on the pipe that leads to the crew’s head has so much activity per cubic centimeter. I also know the rust is 20 mm deep. Similar observations could be made throughout the ship. Then I think we could


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calculate how much activity we would have in that ship. Then I think we could consult with someone like Dr. Rodenbaugh and see if he thinks that amount is dangerous. Also get together to see if that amount would come together and actually be a hazard. Give me the information as to areas and mass of material in the pipes along with representative samples.

Howell: We have some information for you now.

Scott: We can give you some answer. That’s the only way to do this – unless you do it like you did on the destroyer (measuring after the job is done). What I would like to do is break these ships down into units and consider each type of contamination as a different problem. Take evaporators and their lower limit. People obviously aren’t going to collect scale or carry it around and I, personally, from what I have seen of evaporators would be willing to clear the things if they read less than 1/10 R a day.

Turnbaugh: It is not merely a question of safety on a ship in the personnel being near an active unit for a twenty-four hour period. The yard has the problem of working on the inside of evaporators and of working valves in the shop. The low limit must consider this.

Scott: There is a point that I am not aware of. My only suggestion there is that any of those operations have to be monitored. I would have to know the actual mechanics of the repair work.

Rodenbaugh: You still would have to know what substances cause emission.

Scott: Our whole premise has been based on knowing the ratio of beta to alpha activity before we would have something to work on. Last month that was worked out in the Lab. to semi completion. If we find that always to be true, I think you can have the control measure.

Lemler: Summarizing this meeting: First, a suggestion was mad that we organize a steering committee for the work here. That would be representatives from BuShips, BuMed and U. of C. The purpose of it would be to develop procedures


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and to disseminate information. Second, we will continue along on our present procedures and try to deactivate the active ships to the satisfaction of Dr. Walsh. He provides the monitor. Third, the long range experimentation – my guess is that it will be done on the target ships primarily and on the active ships secondarily.

Scott: I wonder if there is some way we can get this in writing?
Rodenbaugh: I would like to get some samples of this marine growth in pipes.
Scott: I would like to have a list of the selected personnel for this secret and confidential matter to use so I will know who to give this information to.


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One thought on “1946-10-01 Meeting discussing the dumping of radioactive Sand into SF Bay, Puget Sound, LA, San Diego, Pearl Harbor, Norfolk etc.

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