A large storage facility building
Drums containing transuranic waste are shown in a storage facility at the Idaho National Laboratory Site's Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project.

IDAHO FALLS, IdahoEM has made significant progress in reducing the transuranic (TRU) waste inventory at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site’s Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project (AMWTP), fulfilling a commitment to the State of Idaho.

Over the last year, EM and INL Site cleanup contractor Idaho Environmental Coalition (IEC) successfully reduced the overall TRU waste inventory at AMWTP by 22%, or 9,331 waste containers. They sent more TRU waste shipments to EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico in calendar year 2023 than at any point over the last decade.

“The Idaho Cleanup Project and the State of Idaho are grateful for the efforts of the WIPP team to enable this pace of shipments from Idaho,” Idaho Cleanup Project Manager Connie Flohr said. “This kind of success would not be possible without their committed support.”

Worker in a large factory building uses a machine to prepare waste containers
EM crews at the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project prepare transuranic waste containers for shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

When IEC’s contract began in 2022, the remaining TRU waste inventory at AMWTP was stored in over 39,000 containers onsite. As of this month, the inventory is just below 30,000 containers.

“This would not have been possible without the dedication of a workforce committed to getting this work done,” said AMWTP Operations Director Dave Martin. “Each TRU waste shipment that leaves Idaho represents meticulous planning, careful collaboration with our DOE and state partners and safe execution on the part of our workforce.”

While much work remains, Martin sees the AMWTP workforce as uniquely positioned to address the challenge.

“The number of remaining containers seems daunting, but nowhere else in the DOE complex will you find the skilled workforce and specialized equipment used to carry out the mission at AMWTP,” Martin said. “Their diligent efforts will continue reducing risk to the environment.”

TRU waste is comprised of debris, residues, soil and other items contaminated with radioactive elements — largely plutonium — that have atomic numbers greater than uranium.

This year, EM and IEC will continue to treat, characterize and ship TRU waste stored at AMWTP. They expect to continue sending as many as 12 TRU waste shipments per week to WIPP.

-Contributor: Carter Harrison