LANL begins shipments to Idaho

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By The Staff

Los Alamos National Laboratory has made the first of its 18 shipments of transuranic (TRU) waste to the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project at Idaho National Laboratory.


The first shipment left Los Alamos, Nov, 13, according to lab spokesman Fred DeSousa.

“Known as MTRU, or mixed transuranic waste, the material requires special handling because it consists mostly of large, metal equipment with sharp edges. By using equipment and technology available at the Idaho site, this waste can be remotely repackaged safely and efficiently with far fewer hazards for workers,” Desousa said in a statement. He added, “Removing such waste from Los Alamos facilitates the lab’s effort to meet our commitments with New Mexico. In addition, the three-site operation demonstrates DOE-EM’s ability to meet the challenge of conducting high priority but technically complex environmental management operations.”

In all 46 cubic meters will be shipped to Idaho and eventually back to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad.

The shipments are part of the lab’s campaign to remove 3,706 cubic meters of TRU-Waste by the end of June.

On Friday, DeSousa said, “We ended FY 13 having shipped 2,745 cubic meters vs. our goal of 2,600 toward the campaign goal of 3,706.”

The waste is being transported to Idaho National Laboratory to be repackaged because INL has advanced remote handling capabilities and will be able to process the waste safer and more efficiently. The shipments will be transported from October 2013 to March 2014.

According to a lab release, the waste was packed into 18 oversized corrugated metal boxes (CMBs) that were welded shut. Each CMB contains about 2.3 cubic meters of waste. The waste inside the CMBs is classified as mixed transuranic waste (MTRU).

To be characterized as MTRU, waste must have radioactivity levels greater than 100 nanocuries per gram (nCi/g)with a half life of greater than 20 years and be contaminated with hazardous constituents as defined under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the principal federal law governing the treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste. Hazardous constituents include items such as solid pieces of lead from shielded glove boxes and aerosols such as spray paint.

LANL generally repackages and ships its own waste directly to WIPP and other licensed disposal facilities, but occasionally uses other waste packaging facilities for safety and efficiency reasons.

According to LANL, the CMBs are being transported to Idaho National Laboratory for repackaging for three main reasons: 1) they contain items, such as liquids and aerosols, that are prohibited by WIPP and must be removed; 2) AMWTP has a permit to process this type of waste; and 3) INL has advanced remote waste-handling capabilities, so the waste can be processed and shipped to WIPP without exposing workers to the hazards of handling and repackaging the waste.

So how will the waste be shipped?

All waste will be transported either intersite or to WIPP in U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission certified Type-B containers under 10 CFR 71.

These casks must meet a number of stringent requirements and are called Type B containers. Each CMB from Los Alamos will be securely contained inside a model 10-160B shipping cask, a Type B lead-shielded carbon steel shipping cask with double lid bolted closures.

Each cask holds one CMB. INL will size reduce and repackage the waste to meet WIPP acceptance criteria, then ship the waste directly to WIPP for disposal. To ensure safety during transport, each truck undergoes a Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) Level 6 inspection under the North American Standard Inspection Program for commercial vehicles.

In addition to CVSA Level 6 inspections, all carriers contracted to transport waste for the Department of Energy must maintain their status on the Motor Carrier Evaluation Plan (MCEP) by sustaining a superior safety and operational record. Each motor carrier is audited every three years to ensure its safety and operational record qualifies it for inclusion on the MCEP list.

In addition, each shipment is tracked by the Department of Energy’s TRANSCOM system, an unclassified tracking and web application that combines satellite and cellular communication technologies from onboard transponders to track truck and rail shipments as they make their way from origin to destination.