Lab takes down first waste storage dome

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By The Staff

An ongoing concern at Los Alamos National Laboratory has been the somewhat vulnerable above ground storage domes that have been used to house radioactive waste over long periods of time. On Wednesday, the lab began demolishing the first of these containment domes.


The 38-foot high, 345-foot-long facility known as “Dome 226” is made of fabric over aluminum ribbing. It once housed thousands of drums of radioactive waste that have been shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad for disposal.

Demolition of the 12 remaining domes is part of the site’s multiyear closure plan.

The laboratory’s associate director for Environmental Programs, Michael Graham, said the demolition marked a significant milestone toward closure of the site, known as Technical Area 54 Area G.

“It’s the first demolition at this site,” Graham said. “It’s a visual measurement of our success.”

The demolition is also important to members of the Pueblo de San Ildefonso, whose sacred lands border the area.

“We know that progress on cleanup at TA-54 means a lot to Northern New Mexico, especially the Pueblo,” said Don Winchell, manager of the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos Site Office. “We’re honored that they could attend today’s event.”

“This was our ancestral domain,” Pueblo de San Ildefonso Gov. Leon Roybal said to the group gathered to watch the demolition. “We know what happens at the lab is part of national security and we are all Americans.  We can’t put the land back the way it was, but the spirits still live here and today is a good day for all of us.”  

LANL continues to package and ship waste to WIPP. In fiscal year 2009, which ends today, the lab completed a record 131 shipments of “transuranic” waste to WIPP including 16 remote handled canisters and more than 2,200 drums of waste.