LOS ALAMOS, N.M.—Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos (N3B), legacy cleanup contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office (EM-LA), is making steady progress in a key program central to the legacy cleanup mission at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
Over the course of 2023, N3B completed field work at two “aggregate areas” – Threemile Canyon and North Ancho Canyon. Aggregate areas are geographical areas, within watersheds or canyons that contain soil and debris contaminated from legacy operations at LANL.
Aggregate areas are grouped into eight campaigns under the 2016 Compliance Order on Consent. The order is an enforceable agreement between the New Mexico Environment Department and DOE for cleaning up legacy waste at LANL and establishes a structure for prioritizing and accomplishing cleanup work through the use of campaigns. Threemile Canyon Aggregate Area is included in the Pajarito Watershed Campaign, while North Ancho Canyon Aggregate Area is included in the Southern External Boundary Campaign. EM-LA and N3B have six aggregate area campaigns in progress.
“Cleaning up the land is one of our major areas of focus in the legacy cleanup mission at LANL,” N3B Environmental Program Manager Troy Thomson said. “By cleaning up these aggregate areas, we’re characterizing and removing contamination from these legacy soil sites.”
There are 23 aggregate areas within the LANL site. In 2024, N3B will perform site characterization and remediation at five aggregate areas: Twomile, Starmer/Upper Pajarito, Chaquehui, Lower Pajarito and Potrillo/Fence Canyon.
Work at each aggregate area involves identifying the nature and extent of radiological and hazardous contamination, remediating the site if necessary and then submitting investigation reports, including risk assessments, to NMED for approval.
Cleanup within an aggregate area is based on investigation and can range from no cleanup necessary, to removing a small amount of debris, such as a fuel tank, to performing extensive remediation of multiple sites with contaminated soil, debris and other materials.