LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — N3B Los Alamos finished fiscal year 2022 (FY22) by exceeding the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office (EM-LA) goals for shipping off-site to permanent disposal facilities legacy radioactive waste from historical operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

It’s a key accomplishment in the department’s mission to protect human and ecological health by addressing environmental impacts from LANL’s Manhattan Project and Cold War activities.

N3B sent 52 shipments of legacy transuranic (TRU) waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in FY22, exceeding EM-LA’s goal by over 70 percent. The shipments included more than 130 cubic meters of waste, or the equivalent of approximately 625 55-gallon drums.

“Stakeholder engagement is an important part of the EM-LA cleanup mission, and the feedback I receive is shipping more TRU waste to WIPP should be a key priority,” said Michael Mikolanis, EM-LA manager. “Additionally, our partnership with N3B, WIPP and Triad National Security LLC — the organization managing and operating Los Alamos National Laboratory — has enabled us to implement efficiencies. We surpassed our FY22 TRU waste shipment goal by over 70 percent, which is a testament to our focus to get legacy waste off the hill and to our commitment to the citizens of New Mexico.”

TRU waste managed by N3B and EM-LA was produced during LANL’s historical nuclear weapons research and production. It entails materials such as protective clothing, tools and equipment contaminated with radioactive elements like plutonium and americium. When shipped, containers of TRU waste are encased in oversized casks known as TRUPACTS, which are approved for transport on public roadways.

Based on DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (DOE-EM) 2022 priorities, the Los Alamos site goal was 30 TRU waste shipments to WIPP.

“Exceeding our FY22 goal means we’re successful at accelerating our movement of waste out of Technical Area 54, where we manage radioactive waste before it’s shipped off-site to a permanent disposal facility,” said Ellen Gammon, N3B’s director of Waste Management. “The ability to use Triad’s indoor loading facility has also allowed us to package waste for shipment in inclement weather.”

Remediating and shipping legacy waste from Los Alamos is a key cleanup project for DOE-EM, and Los Alamos was the only site included with a FY22 priority goal for TRU waste shipments.

Moving forward, the new DOE-EM yearly goal for Los Alamos will be 40 TRU waste shipments to WIPP. This 33 percent increase is due, in part, to increased efficiencies in packaging and shipping waste, as well as enhanced coordination between EM-LA and WIPP.

N3B and EM-LA also ended FY22 by shipping off-site 350 containers of mixed low-level and low-level radioactive waste, which amounts to about 560 cubic meters, or approximately 2,690 55-gallon drums. With a DOE-EM goal of 250 containers and 500 cubic meters of waste shipped, the achievement outpaced the FY22 objective by 100 containers.

Low-level waste has radioactivity at levels lower than TRU waste. Mixed low-level waste includes low-level and hazardous waste. Both are shipped to DOE-approved disposal facilities.

“Shipping low-level waste off-site is crucial in reaching N3B’s goals of environmental remediation around LANL,” said David LaLonde, one of N3B’s environmental professionals. “While it’s not the high-profile transuranic waste being shipped to WIPP, it’s absolutely essential to our mission. It’s part of the whole legacy waste operation to clean up the grounds and de-inventory the site. We are committed to getting it done safely and efficiently.”

For questions or high-resolution versions of the photos, contact Kate Keenan at 505-695-3046.

N3B waste handling operators mine containers of transuranic radioactive waste from historical Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) operations to prepare for shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, where it will be permanently and safely stored in underground salt beds. N3B exceeded its waste shipment goals in FY22 by more than 70 percent.

N3B crews use a mobile-loading unit to place containers of LANL’s legacy transuranic waste into casks, known as TRUPACTS, which are approved for transport on public roadways to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

With the mobile loading unit, operators secure the TRUPACT lid prior to shipping LANL’s legacy transuranic waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.