2020 Accomplishments

Our progress toward protecting the environment and our workforce

FY20 Executive Summary

In fiscal year (FY) 2020, N3B met all Consent Order milestones and accomplished several project performance goals in support of cleaning up legacy waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) — or radiological and chemical waste primarily generated during the Manhattan Project and Cold War eras — for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office (EM-LA).

The COVID-19 pandemic, during the second half of FY20, presented unique challenges as N3B developed and implemented policies, controls and processes to protect N3B employees and their families from the virus. When N3B received a partial stop-work order from EM-LA on March 24, 2020, we reduced work to authorized essential mission critical activities (EMCA).

At the end of FY20, N3B remained in Phase Two of its Resumption of Operations plan, fully executing the field mission while continuing telework to the maximum extent practicable.

FY20 Major Clean-Up Initiatives

Contact-Handled Transuranic Waste (TRU) Program

The objective of the TRU program is to manage, characterize, package and ship waste off-site for permanent disposal. 


The objective of the ER program is to identify, characterize, monitor and remediate contaminated groundwater, surface water, and waste sites. 

FY20 Highlights & Challenges


N3B met all Consent Order milestones and project performance goals for the following major work programs:

  • Contact-handled Transuranic Waste Program
  • Environmental Remediation Program

In order to meet its project performance goals, N3B continued to develop innovative solutions and improve logistics.  This included adding increased safety protocols, waste-handling efficiencies, environmental protections and several workforce training and certification initiatives.

We rose to each challenge faced in FY20 as a cohesive team. Working closely with our partners and stakeholders, we worked to ensure our project performance goals.


N3B management responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. We developed and implemented policies, controls and processes to protect N3B employees and their families from the virus. This response included:

  • Received and responded to a partial stop-work order from EM-LA on March 24, 2020 and reduced work to authorized essential mission critical activities (EMCA)
  • Developed and implemented a Resumption (or Return-To-Work) safety program and guidelines
  • Remained in Phase Two of its Resumption of Operations plan, fully executing the field mission while continuing telework to the maximum extent practicable.

We’re proud of our team and their innovative response to this unprecedented event.

TRU Waste Program By the Numbers


Cubic meters of TRU waste processed for shipment


Containers of TRU waste certified for shipment


TRU waste shipments completed


TRU waste shipments scheduled to ship in FY21


Cubic meters of MLLW shipped to Energy Solutions


Glovebag processing lines under development to process 1,472 TRU containers


Drill and drain processing line under development to process TRU liquid waste

Contact-handled Transuranic Waste Program FY20 Accomplishments

The TRU Program continued to refine logistics for waste processing and optimize shipment facilities. This included coordination with Triad for indoor TRU loading activities, facility design and purchase of equipment to process corrugated metal pipes filled with cementitious waste, mixed low-level waste shipments and the construction of two (2) glovebag and one (1) drill and drain processing lines designed to improve waste processing and throughput.

TRU Shipments in July 2020

N3B made four TRU shipments in July to
WIPP, the radioactive waste repository where defense-generated TRU waste gets stored 2,150 feet underground in an ancient salt bed.

Corrugated Metal Pipe Shear

The hydraulic shear for cutting corrugated metal pipes in Dome 375 located in Area G.

Glovebag Training Mockup

Waste processing operators participate in a
glovebag training and mockup session.

Drill and Drain Mockup Training

Waste processing operators participate in a training and mockup session of the drill and drain process line.

TRU Waste Processing and Shipments

  • Coordinated with Triad for use of LANL’s Radioassay and Nondestructive Testing facility, which provides the opportunity for indoor loading of transuranic (TRU) waste shipments. N3B has been loading its TRU shipments outdoors, where inclement weather can limit operations
  • Remediated and repackaged for shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad — or reclassified as low-level waste for shipment to Permafix Northwest in Richland, Washington — more than 66 cubic meters of TRU waste, exceeding our target of 60 cubic meters
  • Completed 5 TRU waste shipments
  • At the end of FY20, N3B had 553 containers of TRU waste, which would amount to about 25 shipments, certified and ready for WIPP. With WIPP reducing its waste shipments due to COVID-19, N3B shipments were impacted, thus creating a backlog of TRU waste shipments
  • Note: N3B plans to make approximately 30 TRU waste shipments in FY21, 11 of which have already been completed

Corrugated Metal Pipes (CMP) Campaign

  • Completed design of a facility and purchased equipment to process 158 corrugated metal pipes (CMPs) filled with cemented wastewater treatment sludge, which were buried underground at Area G in the 1970s
    • The pipes are about 20 feet long and 30 inches in diameter. They weigh about 14,000 pounds each
  • Installation of a hydraulic shear, which will cut the CMPs for packaging and shipment to WIPP, is planned for FY21
  • CMP campaign work was paused due to COVID-19

Mixed Low-Level (MLLW) Waste Shipments

  • Successfully shipped 343 cubic meters of MLLW on schedule to Energy Solutions in Clive, Utah, exceeding our goal of 325 cubic meters

Glovebag and Drill & Drain Process Lines

  • Installed all equipment for two glovebag
    process lines
    • By affording the required level of
      protection for processing a certain
      category of TRU waste, glovebags will potentially enable processing of about 1,472 containers of TRU waste for disposal at WIPP
  • Set up one drill and drain process line (in Area G)
    • Drill and drain operations allow waste processing operators to remediate waste if liquid exists in a container. Waste operators remove liquid from the container; use a reagent to bring its pH to an acceptable level, if necessary; and add absorbent to turn that liquid into a solid. Then the waste can be repackaged for disposal at WIPP
  • Performed mockups and self-assessments of glovebag and drill and drain process lines
  • Field work was paused due to COVID-19, but the project was ahead of schedule prior to the work pause

Understanding the Processes


A containment area where a TRU waste drum can be securely emptied without spread of contamination. Then waste processing operators (WPOs) can sort, segregate, remediate and repackage the waste to meet WIPP’s waste acceptance criteria. WPOs access the waste through an opening in the containment where a glove is permanently attached, which allows them to manipulate waste safely.


Balancing the pH levels, or acidity of the liquid, so it’s noncorrosive, and then adding absorbent, helps minimize the potential degradation of a container and makes it compliant for disposal at WIPP.

Environmental Remediation Program By the Numbers

Million gallons of Cr groundwater treated

Groundwater sample locations on and around LANL property

Storm water control inspections and mitigations

Soil samples collected and analyzed

Cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris remediated

Cubic yards of low-level waste shipped for disposal

Cubic yards of mixed low-level waste shipped for disposal

Environmental Remediation Program FY20 Achievements and Campaigns

The ER Program saw continued success on the chromium interim measure and characterization, development of drilling work plans, and groundwater monitoring. N3B also completed a modeling and risk assessment of the RDX plume and impletmented a storm water control and protection plan. Other ER project work included Middle DP Road, Historical Properties, Known Clean Up Sites, Transition Materials Shipment, MDA C&L Vapor Monitoring and Demolition and Decommissioning of TA-21’s Building 257.

Cultural Resources Monitoring

N3B’s cultural resources specialist monitors nearby cultural sites during ground-disturbing activities as the pad for a new groundwater monitoring well is built.

Groundwater Sampling well R-50

Groundwater sampling at well R-50 during the FY20 monitoring year.

RDX Deep Groundwater Modeling

A hydrologist from Neptune and Company, who partnered with N3B to create the Fate and Transport Model of RDX in deep groundwater.

Stormwater Monitoring

Inspection of a storm water sampling station in Pueblo Canyon, which assists crews in monitoring runoff from a former LANL site.

Middle DP Road Trenchwork

Trench work and radiological readings at a land parcel on Middle DP Road.

Building 257 at Technical Area 21

Building 257 at Technical Area 21, in the
industrial area of Los Alamos, south of Los Alamos County Airport.

Chromium Interim Measure and Characterization Campaign

  • Continued successful implementation of the Interim Measure pump-and-treat system to address chromium groundwater contamination
  • A significant buffer was established between the edge of the chromium plume beneath Laboratory property and the property line of the adjacent Pueblo de San Ildefonso tract
  • Treated 65.7 million gallons of chromium-contaminated groundwater and met two FY20 Consent Order milestones related to the chromium project
  • The chromium treatment system was shut down during EMCA, but groundwater samples taken after EMCA showed no increase in the level of chromium contamination at five injection wells

Completed groundwater monitoring at 153 sites

  • Collected groundwater samples at 153 locations on and around LANL property
    — including wells, springs and surface water sources — for monitoring year 2020, which ran October 1, 2019-September 30, 2020
  • All groundwater sampling was suspended
    during EMCA. Once Phase One operations resumed, crews accounted for as many missed samples as possible
  • Submitted our groundwater monitoring plan for monitoring year 2021 to NMED in June

RDX Deep Groundwater Modeling and Risk Assessment

  • In May 2020 we completed a predictive model that forecasts the fate of contamination from Royal Demolition Explosive, or RDX, found in a portion of deep groundwater at LANL
  • Modeling shows that the high explosive plume in the deep groundwater will not advance substantially toward water supply wells in the next 50 years
  • Additionally, due to LANL access and land use controls, no drinking water wells will be drilled in the area where RDX is present
  • A risk assessment report submitted to NMED ultimately indicates that no immediate risk to human health is posed by the RDX plume. Long-term monitoring of the plume is recommended

Middle DP Road

  • Conducted trench work on a parcel of land at a housing development construction site on DP Road, adjacent to where a county contractor found legacy waste materials
  • The site was historically used by LANL and transferred to Los Alamos County from the DOE years ago. N3B found no contaminated materials on this land parcel
  • Prepared for sampling to gain further confidence that radioactively contaminated debris will not be encountered west of the recently dug trench

Transition Materials Shipment

  • Shipped for off-site disposal about 120 cubic meters of soil, metal and debris and nearly 103,000 gallons of purged well water inherited from LANL
  • This work was added to N3B’s contract for FY21 and was ahead of schedule at the end of FY20

Vapor monitoring at MDAs C&L

  • Continued monitoring and sampling soil vapor plumes at Material Disposal Areas for potential new releases and plume rebound
  • Vapor monitoring will support a final remedy determination for these MDAs

Drilling Work Plans for Additional Monitoring Wells

  • Submitted drilling work plans to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) for additional monitoring wells at the chromium plume
  • Samples from one well will help N3B assess the reason for a rising concentration of chromium in the northwestern portion of the plume
  • The second well will help fill a data gap between LANL’s boundary with the Pueblo de San Ildefonso

Monitoring Well Reconfiguration for Groundwater Protection

  • Reconfigured a groundwater monitoring well in February 2020 that would give advanced warning of any groundwater contamination migrating south of the laboratory’s boundary

Storm Water Monitoring, Inspections, and Construction Under Individual Permit

  • Built 26 new storm water controls on and around LANL property to mitigate
    potential migration of storm water
  • Conducted 664 storm water control inspections
  • Work was impacted by COVID, as well as exceptional drought conditions in Los Alamos County. All samplers that collect storm water in response to a precipitation event were activated by August 31, 2020

Soil Remediation

  • 2,175 Soils samples collected and analyzed
  • 1,945 cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris remediated
  • 608 cubic yards of low-level waste shipped for off-site disposal
  • 1,722 cubic yards of mixed low-level waste shipped for off-site disposal

Historical Properties Campaign

  • Characterized and remediated sites in Los Alamos Canyon where the disposal of legacy solid waste is known or suspected, and that sit on or adjacent to what is now the Los Alamos town site
  • Shipped for disposal contaminated soil and debris from these sites
  • Fieldwork related to this campaign is complete, pending NMED approval

Known Cleanup Sites Campaign

  • Completed investigation, remediation and restoration of soil under the Known Cleanup Sites campaign, the first Consent Order campaign to be completed at LANL
  • Known Cleanup Sites are areas where the historical disposal of solid waste was known or suspected, and that were identified over the past 10 years as containing contaminants that exceeded targets for carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic contaminants

Demolition and Decommissioning of TA-21’s Building 257

  • Conducted initial waste characterization of TA-21’s industrial waste lines and Building 257 — which served as LANL’s Cold War-era radiological liquid waste treatment facility
  • This work was performed in preparation of demolition and decommissioning, and a land transfer to Los Alamos County
  • Found unanticipated levels of radiological contamination and halted initial demolition activities to re-evaluate the facilities’ hazard categorization and necessary controls

Understanding the Processes


Monitoring helps determine the fate and transport of known legacy waste contaminants, detect new potential contaminants from previous releases, evaluate the efficacy of remedies and support corrective measures.

Hours of instructional mission support training

CH-TRU employees that received instructional training

Million dollars of productive cost versus COVID-19 pay

Trained technicians and operators graduated

Operational Excellence and Workforce Development

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and to further its committment to attract, build, and retain its Los Alamos workforce, N3B took several proactive steps to design innovative programs and develop training tools to meet their Consent Order milestone objectives. One of these, the Operational Excellence Initiative (OEI) was recognized as a complex-wide best practice.

Operational Excellence Initiative

  • Established the Operational Excellence Initiative (OEI)
    • OEI is a training program for employees unable to telework during EMCA. OEI allowed about 180 CH-TRU employees to accumulate around 70,000 hours of instruction to support mission objectives
    • Employees amassed about $3.3 million of productive cost versus COVID-19 at home pay
    • The program was recognized as a complex-wide best practice

Workforce Development Program

  • Deployed boot camps and apprenticeship programs to help foster a well-paid, highly skilled, homegrown workforce
    • Trained 22 students to become fully qualified radiological control technicians, waste processing operators or nuclear operators

Safety Program Metrics By the Numbers

N3B FY20 Total Recordable Case Rate

DOE Office of Environmental Management FY20 Threshold

N3B FY20 Days Away, Restricted or Transferred (DART) Rate

DOE DART Office of Environmental Management FY20 Threshold

Safety Performance Objectives,
Measures, and Commitments

N3B’s safety performance in FY20 was very good with only three minor injuries. We look forward to continued improvement next year. The TRC and DART rates are important measures of safety. They are common OSHA measures that show how often a recordable injury or illness occurs at a business. A recordable injury is any injury that requires treatment beyond first aid.

N3B’s OSHA safety reporting metrics are well below the Department of Energy Environmental Management’s targets of less than 1.1 and 0.6, respectively.

N3B Total Recordable Case (TRC) Rate

  • Our Total Recordable Case (TRC) rate is 0.45
    • This metric is well below the Department of Energy Environmental Management’s target of less than 1.1

N3B Days Away, Restricted or Transferred (DART) Rate

  • Our Days Away, Restricted or Transferred (DART) rate is 0.15
    • This metric is well below the Department of Energy Environmental Management’s target of less than 0.6

Understanding the Metrics


TRC rate is calculated by taking the number of recordable injuries times 200,000 divided by the number of hours worked over 12 months.


DART rate is calculated by taking the number of recordable injuries that resulted in the worker being away from work, unable to work in their primary assigned job, or transferred because they are unable to perform the primary assignment times 200,000 divided by the number of hours worked over 12 months.