Crews at the Idaho National Laboratory Site prepare to load certified transuranic waste into a TRUPACT-II container for shipping to EM's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
Crews at the Idaho National Laboratory Site prepare to load certified transuranic waste into a TRUPACT-II container for shipping to EM's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

Thousands of drums containing Cold War weapons waste from the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site recently received the green light for certification for shipment out of the state in compliance with the 1995 Idaho Settlement Agreement.

The Department of Energy Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) approved the documentation required to allow for certification and shipment of three populations, or lots, of waste consisting of 2,237 drums of transuranic waste that has been stored at the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project (AMWTP). CBFO is responsible for ensuring waste generators, like the INL Site, comply with the waste acceptance criteria at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  CBFO has collaborated well with the federal and contractor staff on the Idaho TRU Programs teams to ensure the waste meets the acceptance criteria for safe transport and disposal at the WIPP.  “The strengthened partnership between the Idaho and Carlsbad offices has helped focus both contractors on getting waste ready for certification and ultimately shipped out of Idaho.  I appreciate the efforts of Reinhard [Knerr] and his team to help us meet our Site Treatment Plan milestones,” said Connie Flohr, Manager of the Idaho Cleanup Project.

The waste was primarily generated at the former Rocky Flats Plant, one of EM's closure sites, with other waste generators across the country also contributing smaller portions of the waste stored at Idaho during the Cold War. The waste had been visually examined to ensure the physical form of the waste matched the waste stream description and then treatment was conducted to remove any prohibited items or conditions to ensure the waste was compliant for disposal at the WIPP. The waste was then placed in drums, assayed to determine  isotope types and quantities present before being safely compacted in the AMWTP’s supercompactor, which created five-inch-thick “pucks” out of waste drums to maximize the waste volume of each shipment.

“Everybody is happy this [waste] is moving forward,” said Ed Gulbransen, TRU Programs Manager for EM contractor Fluor Idaho. “It’s allowing us to keep the shipping pipeline [to WIPP] open and fulfill our commitments to the citizens of Idaho.”  The approval also ensures the continued, effective operations at the WIPP as it supports waste generator sites across the DOE complex.

Gulbransen said the amount of waste approved to be certified to ship, equates to six shipments a week through February 2022. TRU Programs is now performing the certification paperwork in compliance with WIPP shipping and acceptance criteria to allow the waste to be planned for shipments over the next eight months as part of the certified backlog.

To date, AMWTP has shipped more than 58,000 cubic meters of Cold War, legacy waste out of the state of Idaho while also assisting with waste treatment and shipment of Los Alamos National Lab and Nevada National Security Site waste. The Idaho Settlement Agreement requires that the total inventory of waste – 65,000 cubic meters that has been managed as contaminated with Transuranic isotopes – be shipped out of the state for permanent disposal.

By Mark Jones (DOE-ID) and Erik Simpson (Fluor Idaho)