Los Alamos National Laboratory has brought a third waste repackaging facility online to increase its capability to process nuclear waste for permanent disposal. The "375 box line facility" enables Los Alamos to repackage transuranic (TRU) waste stored in large fiberglass-reinforced boxes. 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.
About 90 percent of the current TRU waste inventory is a result of decades of nuclear research and weapons production at the Laboratory and is often referred to as "legacy" waste.
The Laboratory and the State of New Mexico have agreed that removing the above-ground TRU waste stored there is the Laboratory's highest environmental cleanup priority. The materials must be repackaged into containers that meet stringent requirements before they can be shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M., for permanent disposal. The new facility contains a number of safety features, including fire protection and high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtering.
"This facility will help us accelerate shipment of TRU waste," said Waste Program and Services Project Director Andy Baumer. "Since the majority of our TRU waste inventory that is in large boxes can be processed in this facility, it's going to be our workhorse." The new facility contains a number of safety features, including fire protection and high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtering.
Built inside a dome once used to house containers of waste at the Laboratory, the facility is the largest Perma-Con© structure ever constructed. A Perma-Con© is a modular structure typically used for radiological or hazardous containment. The record-setting structure is 110 feet long by 48 feet wide. "The 375 box line facility is the largest, most technically challenging and complex containment facility RPS has produced to date," said Bill Rambow, CEO of Radiation Protection Systems, who supplied the structure.
"This new repackaging facility will allow us to dispose of even greater volumes of TRU waste during the coming months," said Pete Maggiore, assistant manager for environmental operations at the National Nuclear Security Administration's Los Alamos Field Office.
About Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is located 35 miles northwest of Santa Fe, NM, on 36 square miles of DOE-owned property. There are more than 2,000 individual facilities, including 47 technical areas with 8 million sq. ft. under roof. Replacement value is $9.8 billion.