Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Status of Corrective Actions at Los Alamos

Following the Accident Investigation Board Report on the February 14, 2014 incident at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in Carlsbad, New Mexico

December 1, 2016



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Status of Corrective Actions on drum breach at WIPP ( as of December 1, 2016)

Corrective actions were undertaken by Los Alamos National Laboratory through a collaborative effort led by the Associate Director for Environmental Management, the Associate Director for Environmental Safety and Health, the Principal Associate Director for Operations (PADOPS) and the Principal Associate Director for Science, Technology and Engineering.

  • Technical investigation: Shortly after the incident at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the Laboratory assembled a team of our best scientists to investigate the possible causes leading to the energetic reaction that breached the drum at WIPP.  More than six months of intensive study found that heat and pressure were contributing factors in the event.  The science investigation and actions taken to isolate the drums in controlled storage have provided a high degree of confidence in their safety.
  • Isolation of drums and addition of pressure relief devices: In the spring of 2016, pressure relief devices were added to the drums containing the remediated nitrate salts. The relief valves were installed to prevent any possible build up of pressure.  The drums are stored in a temperature-controlled facility equipped with HEPA filtration and fire suppression systems.
  • Compliance Focus: The Laboratory implemented improvement in oversight to ensure that checks and balances are in place to meet regulatory compliance requirements. Across the Laboratory, compliance inspections and problem resolution represented a renewed focus through partnerships between waste generators, waste processors and waste management subject matter experts in the Environment, Safety and Health directorate.
  • Technical leadership: The Laboratory’s Transuranic Waste Management Program was enhanced to increase the level of technical expertise under the leadership of the Associate Director for Environmental Management.
  • Review and development of procedures: The Laboratory completed a thorough review of procedures, training and oversight to ensure that the appropriate subject matter experts are evaluating and approving changes to existing procedures.
  • Integrated Corrective Action Plan: The Laboratory developed a far-ranging corrective action plan based on recommendations from the Accident Investigation Board (AIB). Of the 58 judgments of need identified, 54 of the corrective actions have been completed in areas including process engineering, change control, procedure development, safety culture and training and qualifications.


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