Major waste contract for US DoE site

22 March 2012

A $200 million contract awarded to a partnership led by EnergySolutions will see the removal of all above-ground transuranic wastes from the US Department of Energy's (DoE's) Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico by June 2014.

LANL Area G (LANL)_380
TRU waste is stored above-ground under fabric domes at LANL's Area G (Image: LANL)

The contract for waste characterization, processing and waste operations services was awarded to a partnership between Utah-based EnergySolutions and Environmental Dimensions Inc (EDI) of New Mexico, with various subcontractors. It covers all aspects of radioactive and hazardous waste management, including planning, storage, movement, characterization, processing, and packaging at RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act), radiological and nuclear facilities at LANL.

Particular emphasis will be placed on the management of transuranic waste (TRU) and its removal to the DoE's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) facility in New Mexico. TRU is waste containing man-made elements that are heavier than uranium, such as plutonium, and LANL has a lot of it: the site's Area G houses some 10,000 containers of TRU above the ground under ten specially constructed fabric domes, while a further 6000 containers are buried in underground storage. The waste consists of such things as contaminated clothing, tools and other work equipment, rags, soil, and debris from the laboratory's technical sites, arising from LANL's operations since its foundation in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project.

LANL's TRU program has been working since 1999 to remove the waste, but the program was thrown under the spotlight after the area was threatened by the Las Conchas fire in the summer of 2011. The largest wildfire in recorded New Mexico history burned more than 156,000 acres of land near LANL, including one acre of LANL property.

LANL has placed considerable effort into its wildfire emergency preparations, particularly since an earlier large fire in 2000. Although Area G is protected by extensive fire mitigation systems, LANL has signed an agreement with the Governor of New Mexico to remove all above-ground TRU waste and ship it to WIPP by June 2014. The new contract will be the principal means by which LANL accomplishes this milestone, according to EnergySolutions.

EnergySolutions president and CEO Val Christensen and EDI president Patricia Bradshaw both expressed their delight at the contract. Christensen noted that the two lead companies had worked "extremely hard ... to create a strong value proposition for our customer," while Bradshaw pointed to the entire team's experience of working at LANL dating back over 70 years. "We all look forward to bringing that depth of knowledge to help LANL process the TRU waste so that it can be safely removed from the site," she said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News