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The 1,000th shipment is moved from Los Alamos National Laboratory to Waste Isolation Pilot Plant on June 26, 2012. | Photo from the Energy Management Office.
Last month, Los Alamos National Laboratory hit a milestone. On June 26, Los Alamos transported its 1,000th shipment of transuranic (TRU) waste from the Laboratory to a permanent repository at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).
This shipment also marked the one-year anniversary of the Las Conchas wildfire, which prompted the decision to move the TRU waste from Los Alamos to WIPP. The wildfire sparked a deadline of June 30, 2014 to complete the movement of the waste. At WIPP, the waste will be disposed in below ground rooms mined out of ancient salt formation.
Los Alamos is more than on track to meet this deadline. In fact, the lab has sent a record number of shipments, and is gearing up to surpass its current record this year.
TRU waste consists of clothing, tools, rags, debris, soil and other items contaminated with radioactive material, mostly plutonium. Transuranic elements such as plutonium have an atomic number greater than uranium, so they are labeled transuranic, for “beyond uranium” on the periodic table of elements.
About 90 percent of the current TRU waste inventory is a result of decades of nuclear research and weapons production at the Laboratory and is often referred to as “legacy” waste.
This milestone is just one example of the Energy Department’s commitment to protecting the environment.