Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

What We Clean Up & Why

We clean up legacy waste sites and contaminated areas for return to the public.


  • Environmental Communication & Public Involvement
  • P.O. Box 1663 MS K491
  • Los Alamos, NM 87545
  • (505) 667-3792
  • Email

An active approach to cleanup and environmental restoration

One of the Laboratory's main environmental duties is to investigate where hazardous chemical and/or radioactive materials may be present as a result of past Laboratory operations and to clean up sites where such materials are still found above acceptable levels.

Locations include sites of former Laboratory buildings, on hillsides, in canyon bottoms, and old landfills. 

These sites, called solid waste management units and areas of concern, are collectively called "potential release sites."

About 2,100 cleanup sites were originally identified for action, ranging from small spills to large landfills known as “material disposal areas.”

Cleanup of about half of the sites has been completed, and we have completed the initial investigation of about 90 percent of the remaining areas.

Using an area cleanup approach—dividing the projects into large, geographic areas—we manage legacy cleanup in an integrated, holistic fashion.

Cleanup of these sites consist of activities such as

  • removing contaminated soil and disposing of it in licensed disposal facilities
  • closing landfills and demolishing unused buildings
  • removing containers of transuranic waste stored above ground

Cleanup of these sites is achieved through the corrective actions process and follows the requirements of the Compliance Order on Consent from the New Mexico Environment Department.

Major cleanup projects

The Laboratory is cleaning up hazardous and radioactive waste left over from activities during the World War II and Cold War eras.

The Upper Los Alamos Canyon Cleanup Project is ongoing and slope-side cleanup activities are currently taking place near Smith's Marketplace. The cleanup near Smith's Marketplace is expected to be ongoing through the summer of 2015.

A large project, now complete, involved demolishing unused buildings and cleaning up the Laboratory's oldest waste disposal site at Technical Area 21.

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