Office of Environmental Management

DOE Completes Remediated Nitrate Salts Treatment at LANL

November 7, 2017

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For several months, technicians practiced and refined the treatment method using a mock-up glovebox closely resembling the glovebox used during the actual treatment.
For several months, technicians practiced and refined the treatment method using a mock-up glovebox closely resembling the glovebox used during the actual treatment.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. – The EM and National Nuclear Security Administration Los Alamos field offices and contractor Los Alamos National Security, LLC have finished treating the remediated nitrate salts (RNS) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). 

   “Safe and successful completion of the RNS treatment is due to effective partnering between multiple organizations and demonstrates the way DOE strives to conduct operations in a high hazard environment,” EM Los Alamos Field Office Manager Doug Hintze said.

   EM Safety, Security and Quality Assurance Deputy Assistant Secretary Jim Hutton noted that workers upheld high standards in their work, pausing when necessary to address issues, and management supported that constructive behavior.

   “As a result, the workers identified process improvements that increased efficiency — and identified minor problems early — and management supported correcting those problems,” Hutton said. “This accelerated the safe completion of the RNS treatment.”

Treatment at a Glance

  • The RNS drums contained an incompatible combination of nitrate salt waste mixed with an organic absorbent. The drums needed to be treated to allow safe disposition of the waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).
  • Treatment of the 60 RNS drums stored at LANL began in May 2017.
  • The treatment involved removing the RNS waste from drums and mixing it with water and zeolite, an inert material, to render the waste non-reactive.
  • The risk associated with the RNS waste stored at LANL has been removed.
  • The treated RNS waste was repackaged into new drums, which are safely stored at LANL. They will undergo certification prior to being shipped to WIPP for disposal. 
The RNS containers were stored inside a climate-controlled steel enclosure.
The RNS containers were stored inside a climate-controlled steel enclosure.
Treatment of the RNS drums took place inside the Waste Characterization, Repackaging and Reduction Facility (WCRRF).
Treatment of the RNS drums took place inside the Waste Characterization, Repackaging and Reduction Facility (WCRRF).
Prior to the treatment, workers installed a refrigeration unit to help ensure the RNS drums remained cool at WCRRF.
Prior to the treatment, workers installed a refrigeration unit to help ensure the RNS drums remained cool at WCRRF.
Workers carefully transported the RNS drums from the climate-controlled steel enclosure in Area G to WCRRF.
Workers carefully transported the RNS drums from the climate-controlled steel enclosure in Area G to WCRRF.
The RNS drums were safely secured to the glovebox at WCRRF before they were treated.
The RNS drums were safely secured to the glovebox at WCRRF before they were treated.
The RNS waste was mixed with water and zeolite.
The RNS waste was mixed with water and zeolite.
Rotating teams of technicians treated the RNS drums over more than five months.
Rotating teams of technicians treated the RNS drums over more than five months.
The treated drums were transported to Area G for storage until they are certified and shipped to WIPP for disposal.
The treated drums were transported to Area G for storage until they are certified and shipped to WIPP for disposal.
Team members celebrated the final shipment of RNS drums to WCRRF.
Team members celebrated the final shipment of RNS drums to WCRRF.

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