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Los Alamos National Laboratory resumed shipments of transuranic waste yesterday 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. Nearly 3,200 cubic meters of the waste have already been removed since the 3706 campaign began in January 2012.
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 the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico for final disposal.
Shipments to WIPP ceased following a Feb, 5 underground truck fire and a Feb, 14 radiological event. 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.
“Our commitment to the State of New Mexico is to remove the waste stored aboveground so it would not pose a risk in the event of another wildfire in Los Alamos,” said Pete Maggiore, manager of the environmental programs office for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration Los Alamos Field Office. “Staging the waste at WCS is the best option available to ensure the Lab meets its commitment without delay.”
Los Alamos has been ahead of schedule since the campaign began and estimates that approximately 100 shipments remain. After an initial ramp up, as many as 10 shipments per week will be scheduled to complete the campaign.
There was talk that WIPP and DOE had to undergo another National Environmental Policy Act evaluation when it was decided that shipments would be sent to the Texas plant.
But that is not the case, according to WIPP Communications specialist Ben Williams.
“The Supplement Analysis, our requisite National Environmental Policy Act evaluation and documentation, was the only federal environmental review that was required to support this temporary staging alternative,” Williams said in an email.
“ In the 1997 WIPP Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), DOE evaluated the potential environmental impacts associated with the management of transuranic (TRU) wastes at various sites, including the Los Alamos site.
“The public played a large and significant role in the development of that document. DOE recently conducted a Supplement Analysis to confirm that the original EIS continues to be relevant for the temporary staging of TRU waste while DOE addresses the issues at WIPP.”
The Nuclear Waste Partnership’s one-year contract with Waste Control Specialists is valued at $8.8 million. Waste Control Specialists operates a commercial treatment, storage and disposal facility licensed and permitted for radioactive waste management.
According to a WIPP release, all shipments to Waste Control Specialists will be made in accordance with current WIPP shipping requirements, using WIPP shipping containers, trucks, trailers and personnel. DOE and NWP will continue working closely with New Mexico and Texas to ensure that only waste meeting the facility’s waste acceptance criteria is shipped to the facility.