3706 TRU Waste Campaign
- Environmental Communication & Public Involvement
- P.O. Box 1663 MS M996
- Los Alamos, NM 87545
- (505) 667-0216
New Mexicans working together to meet a national environmental challenge
In 2011, the largest forest fire in Northern New Mexico's recorded history came within 3.5 miles of the Laboratory's storage facility for transuranic radioactive waste.
Although the waste was stored safely, the fire focused local and national concern on the waste stored above ground at the Laboratory's facility, located in Technical Area 54, Area G.
In response, the State of New Mexico, the Department of Energy, and the Laboratory made shipping transuranic waste to a permanent repository a top environmental priority.
Shipping the waste to a permanent repository
The State of New Mexico Environment Department and the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration formed a framework agreement (pdf) that reflects this priority and emphasizes shipping 3,706 cubic meters of above-ground waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico.
The objectives of the waste removal campaign are
- removing the 3,706 cubic meters of waste by June 30, 2014
- cleaning up this Cold War legacy
- transporting waste safety and securely
- keeping technology jobs in New Mexico
- fostering new era of environmental partnership
What is transuranic waste?
About 90 percent of the current transuranic, or TRU, waste inventory is a result of decades of nuclear research and weapons production at the Laboratory and is called legacy waste.
TRU waste consists of clothing, tools, rags, debris, soil, and other items contaminated with small amounts of radioactive elements, mostly plutonium.
Each of these man-made elements has an atomic number greater than uranium, so they are labeled transuranic, for "beyond uranium" on the periodic table of elements.
About 20 percent of the waste has been stored in 55-gallon drums, while 70 percent of the waste (machinery and other equipment) has been stored in larger ("oversized") containers. The remaining 10 percent is in containers known as "standard waste boxes."
The trip to WIPP
The TRU waste is processed and, if necessary, repackaged to meet requirements for transporting it to and storing it at a permanent repository at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico.
The Laboratory has sent shipments of TRU waste to WIPP since 1999 but has increased its shipment numbers over the last several years. It has sent record numbers of shipments to WIPP the past three years and is on track for a fourth record year.
The Lab sent its 1,000th shipment to WIPP on June 6, 2012.