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LANL restarts regular shipments to WIPP

SANTA FE, N.M. — Los Alamos National Laboratory has resumed regular shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeast New Mexico for the first time in over four years.

Workers from Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos load waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory into a transport container bound for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad. The event marks the resumption of regular shipments from Los Alamos to WIPP for the first time in over four years. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Energy)

Workers from Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos load waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory into a transport container bound for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad. The event marks the resumption of regular shipments from Los Alamos to WIPP for the first time in over four years. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Energy)

LANL contractor Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos (N3B) announced on Wednesday that radioactive waste was successfully shipped to WIPP last week.

LANL did send a small shipment of six drums to the underground repository in November 2017, which N3B spokesman Todd Nelson called a “one-off.”

“This is the start of a concerted effort to make regular shipments of transuranic waste to WIPP,” Nelson said. “We expect to do roughly one a week now for the next year at least.”

The waste comes from LANL’s Area G, a waste management area being used for storage.

WIPP began accepting shipments again in January 2017, nearly three years after an underground fire and unrelated radiological release prompted the halting of disposal activities.

The radiological release was found to be caused by an improperly packaged drum from LANL that ruptured in the underground.

N3B took over management of legacy waste at LANL in April of this year.

Nelson said N3B worked closely with WIPP in training its employees on proper waste handling processes and procedures.

Todd Shrader, the Department of Energy’s Carlsbad Field Office manager, said it took hundreds of hours to prepare for last week’s shipment.

“The safe completion of the recent shipment from Area G at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is especially important considering LANL’s waste cleanup benefits all New Mexicans,” Shrader said in an emailed statement. “I want to thank the employees at both sites who made the continuation of LANL shipments possible. … I also want to congratulate Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office Manager Doug Hintze, who has provided the steady leadership to ensure LANL shipments are moving again from Area G.”

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