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LANL to resume shipments to WIPP in April

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STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

Los Alamos National Laboratory is expected to start shipping transuranic waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad in April.
 “We are pleased that WIPP is once again emplacing waste, said Carlsbad Field Office Manager Todd Shrader Tuesday. “The suspension of disposal operations has posed challenges at DOE sites, with backlogs of TRU waste building up. Resuming shipments from generator sites is important to support cleanup and ongoing missions at those sites. We look forward to doing that as soon and as safely as possible.”  
Twenty four shipments  of waste are expected to come from LANL through January 2018.
WIPP will also take shipments from other sites, including sites in Idaho, Oak Ridge, Georgia and Texas. Altogether, WIPP is expected to take on 128 shipments of waste through 2017 and into the first month of 2018.
Before waste shipments from Los Alamos or from any other site can begin, LANL must demonstrate it has met updated requirements for shipment. The shipment schedule will be affected by other factors as well.
“The exact allocation and sequence for shipping will be adjusted based on the emplacement rate at WIPP, operational needs at the WIPP and generator sites, and logistical issues (such as weather) that affect shipping," WIPP officials said in an announcement about the planned waste shipments.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant was forced to close in February 2014 after an inappropriately packed drum of waste shipped from the Los Alamos National Laboratory ruptured. Some operations resumed in December after an expensive recovery effort that has yet to be fully completed.
Over the last three years, tons of waste left over from decades of nuclear weapons research and development has been stacking up at sites around the country, hampering the government’s multibillion-dollar cleanup program.
 Investigators have said the incident could have been avoided had existing policies and procedures been followed.
In the wake of the incident, policies were overhauled and criteria for characterizing, treating and packaging the waste were bolstered.
Pointing to a history of mismanagement and lax oversight, watchdog groups had voiced concerns late last year that the federal government was moving too quickly to reopen the repository. Federal officials have argued that corrective actions were taken and that state regulators did not identify any issues that would prevent work from restarting.
Work to move the waste into its final resting place — disposal vaults carved out of an ancient salt formation about a half-mile below the surface — now takes more time because of the extra clothing, respirators and heavy monitoring devices that workers must wear to protect against the contamination. Limited ventilation also slows the work.

Associated Press contributed to this report.