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TRU-Waste shipments resume

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LANL > Threat of a shutdown forced officials to stop work for two weeks

By John Severance

According to a statement from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, all environmental subcontracting companies have been recalled and shipments of TRU waste started again as of Oct. 21.

Operations were suspended for processing and shipping transuranic (TRU) waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad Oct. 6 because of the threat of a government shutdown.

The lab said at the time four shipments already loaded would be completed. Nuclear material was secured and facilities were put into a “safe standby” condition.

The laboratory directed approximately 200 subcontractors on the TRU project to stand down and report back to their companies. These are mostly EnergySolutions subcontractors. Certain other environmental monitoring operations, including those supporting the Santa Fe water utility and chromium pump test, continued.

On Oct. 21, the TRU shipping campaign restarted and the subcontractors were recalled after Congress reached an agreement to end the shutdown and increase the nation’s debt ceiling.

Lab officials said it s still early to assess all impacts but “we estimate six TRU shipments were missed during the suspension of operations. We are doing all we can to work with DOE and WIPP to safely make up these shipments during the coming weeks. We are in frequent communication with the New Mexico Environment Department regarding the project’s status.

“Because we exceeded our shipping goal for FY2013, and because of our documented record of safely accelerating shipments, we remain committed to completing our obligations under the framework agreement with New Mexico on time.”

DOE, NNSA and LANL are in a framework agreement with the New Mexico Environment Department as part of the Consent Order signed in 2005.

In early 2012, the lab announced it was starting the 3,706 Transuranic Waste Campaign where it would send 3,706 cubic meters to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

Officials at the NNSA Los Alamos Site Office have said it was not possible for DOE to meet the Consent Order by 2015. State officials have refused to negotiate the end of the Consent Order, but both sides have worked on prioritizing its waste shipment goals. The Consent Order between NMED and the lab was signed on March 1, 2005.

The Order provides the timetable and requirements for environmental clean-up of hazardous constituents for the laboratory.

TRU waste consists of clothing, tools, rags, debris, soil and other items contaminated with radioactive material, mostly plutonium. Transuranic elements such as plutonium have an atomic number greater than uranium, so they are labeled transuranic, for “beyond uranium” on the periodic table of elements.