EM personnel from the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site and Waste Isolation Pilot Plant met last week for a day focused on safety at the Radioactive Waste Management Complex at the INL Site. They reviewed transuranic waste shipping procedures and reaffirmed their commitment to safety and open communication.

EM personnel from the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site and Waste Isolation Pilot Plant met last week for a day focused on safety at the Radioactive Waste Management Complex at the INL Site. They reviewed transuranic waste shipping procedures and reaffirmed their commitment to safety and open communication.

EM crews at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site and Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) jointly observed a day focused on safety last week to review transuranic (TRU) waste shipping and receipt procedures, reestablish their commitment to safety and further strengthen their working relationships.

Dan Coyne, senior director for waste and decontamination and demolition at Idaho Environmental Coalition (IEC), said the safety day was a good opportunity to refocus management and workers. IEC is EM’s cleanup contractor at the INL Site.

“We’ve had a productive working relationship with WIPP for more than two decades and have safely sent more than 6,700 shipments of TRU waste to them,” he said. “Safety is paramount to our two sites.”

TRU waste, a byproduct of the nation’s nuclear defense program, consists of tools, rags, protective clothing, sludge, soil, and other materials contaminated with radioactive elements that have atomic numbers greater than uranium.

Katie Sterling, WIPP operations manager, said the safety day was extremely beneficial to the EM program at WIPP and the INL Site.

“I can’t say enough about the importance of meeting with the IEC personnel and understanding all the challenges they deal with on a daily basis,” said Sterling. “We’ve had a longstanding relationship with Idaho and this is a great opportunity to make improvements by learning from one another. It was an extremely positive experience that further opens the lines of communication between our two sites.”

As part of the safety day, personnel from the INL Site and WIPP traveled to each other’s sites and participated in walk-downs and discussions about lessons learned and other topics.

“Both facilities felt it was beneficial to send waste management specialists to each other’s facility to meet people, review procedures and see firsthand the TRU waste shipping and receiving processes,” Coyne said. “The visits were also designed to build on the personal relationships that already exist between our employees.”

IEC personnel escorted WIPP employees at the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project to perform walk-downs of storage areas and waste handling facilities, and to witness packaging and shipping processes.

In return, INL Site personnel toured the WIPP facility to see how waste is handled and transported to WIPP. IEC employees also observed WIPP personnel emplacing waste in disposal rooms where it is permanently isolated from the environment.

Coyne said he was pleased with the level of cooperation in the day of safety. He added that it was beneficial to both the INL Site and WIPP.

“Open, honest and transparent communication is paramount to the success of both sites,” said Coyne. “Each facility now has an increased understanding of how the other operates, and both have exhibited the highest commitment to safety.”

Suggestions made during the day of safety will be considered by both sites to ensure safe waste shipments.