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Waste Processing

Workers process and repackage waste at the Transuranic Waste Processing Center’s Cask Processing Enclosure.

Workers process and repackage waste at the Transuranic Waste Processing Center’s Cask Processing Enclosure.

Transuranic waste, or TRU, is one of several types of waste handled by Oak Ridge’s EM program. This waste contains manmade elements heavier than uranium, hence the name “trans” or “beyond” uranium. Transuranic waste material generally includes objects and materials associated with the human manipulation of fissionable material such as clothing, tools, soil, and debris.

TRU material was generated and stored onsite from years of defense-related research conducted primarily at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In 2003, EM constructed the Transuranic Waste Processing Center to address the stockpile of waste. The special facility is equipped to handle various types and classifications of waste, including liquid and solid waste streams.

EM uses this facility to process, repackage, and ship the site’s legacy TRU waste offsite. This waste has two designations that are determined by the material’s composition. First, the facility processes contact-handled waste, which has lower radioactivity and can be manually sorted and repackaged by workers. Second, the facility processes remote-handled waste, which has higher radioactivity and is processed in hot cells by employee-controlled manipulators. Currently, employees are processing and packaging contact and remote-handled waste. However, once complete, EM will alter the facility to treat sludge, another major form of waste in Oak Ridge.

Employees characterize and package waste that is then transported and disposed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico. This location provides permanent isolation and disposal in underground salt caverns. Any mixed low-level waste or low-level waste processed at the Oak Ridge facility is prepared for compliant disposal at the Nevada National Security Site.

Wastren Advantage, Inc. operates the Transuranic Waste Processing Center for the Oak Ridge Office of EM.