Lab doing what it can to help WIPP facility

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By The Staff

The Los Alamos National Laboratory is doing its part to help the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant get to the bottom of what caused the radiation leak. The lab also is helping in WIPP’s remediation efforts even though the facility still is closed.
According to lab spokesperson Patti Jones, the lab has a program group called Repository Science and Operations permanently located in Carlsbad that routinely supports WIPP operations. This group of about 60 people is part of the Associate Directorate of Environmental Programs.
“About half of the staff and has been supporting WIPP recovery since February in a variety of roles, from radiological and waste signature analysis to involvement with the mobile loading team,” said Jeff Mousseau, associate director of environmental programs.
According to Jones, the laboratory provided a radiological controls expert who provided support for initial radiological survey planning and a team of carpenters who provided support to prepare for HEPA filter inspections and evaluations.
“We also provided a crew that conducted HEPA filter testing,” Jones said.
Jones added that the robotics effort was a collaboration between Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratory. LANL provided both a robot and an operator for this effort, she said.
A health physicist from the Los Alamos Field Office Environmental Projects Office spent several weeks at WIPP and is slated to go back in early May to continue providing support. Activities in which he is involved include air monitoring and evaluation of results, proper use of personal protective equipment, use of robotics for underground surveys, and review of radiological worker practices.
While WIPP has been closed since February, LANL resumed shipments of transuranic waste in April from Technical Area 54 Area G.
The shipments are part of an accelerated shipping campaign to remove 3,706 cubic meters of transuranic waste stored aboveground at Area G by June 30, 2014.
The waste was received at Waste Control Specialists (WCS) in Andrews, Texas, Wednesday morning where it will be temporarily staged until it can be shipped to WIPP for final disposal.

The temporary staging arrangement is part of an agreement between WCS and Nuclear Waste Partnership, the management and operating contractor at WIPP. The transuranic waste from Los Alamos to be stored at WCS meets their license requirements and has been coordinated and approved by the appropriate regulatory authorities.