Lab sets record for ‘getting waste off the hill’

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By Special to the Monitor

Los Alamos National Laboratory said it set a new LANL record Friday by completing its 132nd transuranic (TRU) waste shipment of fiscal year 2010.

The waste is shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad.

The shipment eclipsed last year’s record of 131 shipments and there are five weeks remaining in fiscal year 2010, the lab said in a press release.

“Removing this waste from Los Alamos is crucial to our plans for overall cleanup,” said George Rael, environmental projects manager of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Site Office.

“We’re getting waste off ‘the Hill’ and putting it in a safe, permanent home.”

TRU waste contains items such as gloves, clothing and lab equipment contaminated with elements heavier than uranium and above certain quantities.

Liquid waste is not allowed.  

The waste is packaged in drums or boxes, which are placed in a large, steel shipping container called a TRUPACT-II.

 Each truck carries up to three TRUPACT-IIs containing 14 drums each.

Different agencies do different jobs.

LANL crews inspect and repackage Cold War-era waste drums to meet WIPP’s requirements. Then the

WIPP crews certify the TRU drums for disposal. Crews from WIPP load the TRUPACT-IIs, do final inspections, receive a New Mexico inspection and ship the items off.

Over the last two years, only Idaho National Laboratory has sent more waste to WIPP.

LANL has sent 669 shipments since 1999. This year, LANL expects to send 158 shipments.

“Accelerating the pace of shipments, and doing it safely, is our top priority,” said Kathy Johns-Hughes, director of the Lab’s Waste Disposition Program.  

LANL has an estimated 10,000 containers in aboveground storage awaiting processing and shipment to WIPP.

The containers must be removed from the Lab’s Technical Area 54 before cleanup can be completed.

Under an agreement with the state of New Mexico, that cleanup project must be complete by the end of 2015, the lab said.