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Los Alamos National Laboratory Transuranic Waste Program Exceeds Planned Shipping Goal

May 1, 2012 - 12:00pm

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LOS ALAMOS, N.M. Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL) Transuranic (TRU) Waste Program is looking at another record-setting month for the amount of TRU waste leaving Material Disposal Area G, headed to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for permanent disposal.

LANL exceeded its planned removal of TRU waste from Area G in April, shipping more than 91 cubic meters of waste to WIPP — more than the Lab has ever shipped there in a single month.

The Lab is headed for an even more successful May, with 99 cubic meters shipped to WIPP as of May 22.

“Our shipping performance reflects the acceleration that began last fall,” said Pete Maggiore, environmental programs manager for DOE’s Los Alamos Site Operations Office. “And we shipped even more waste than planned.”

LANL surpassed the planned removal of 78 cubic meters of TRU waste in April by more than 13 cubic meters, shipping 91.4 cubic meters of the waste to WIPP, which is located near Carlsbad, N.M. The volume was three times as much as was shipped during March.

The effort to accelerate removal of TRU waste stored above ground at Area G was spurred by the Las Conchas fire in 2011. After the fire, DOE and the State of New Mexico forged a framework agreement that calls for the removal of 3,706 cubic meters of waste stored above ground at Area G by June 30, 2014.

“This is a significant first step that reflects our workers’ commitment to this important project, and to doing the work safely,” said Dan Cox, deputy associate director of environmental programs at the Lab. 

Most of the waste shipped in April was equipment stored in large fiberglass reinforced plywood boxes (FRPs), which was repackaged into WIPP-compliant containers.

“We are working with our partners at the State of New Mexico and WIPP to address this challenge,” said DOE Federal Project Manager Lee Bishop. “This early sign of success bodes well for the future of the project.”

TRU waste consists of clothing, tools, rags, debris, soil and other items contaminated with radioactive elements, mostly plutonium. Each of these man-made elements has an atomic number greater than uranium, so they are labeled transuranic, for “beyond uranium” on the periodic table of elements. About 90 percent of the current TRU waste inventory is a result of decades of nuclear research and weapons production at the Lab.

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