The first transuranic (TRU) waste shipment in a decade departed Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) Sept. 17 on its way to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico. TRU waste is a residual component of nuclear weapons production and its safe and secure disposal is a critical obligation of the Lab.
This milestone is the result of several years of effort with the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) and Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC; NNSA’s Office of Enterprise Stewardship; and NNSA's Livermore Field Office.
LLNL, a national security laboratory, generates TRU waste as a result of the research its workforce conducts in support of the national defense mission. Without the ability to ship its TRU waste offsite, some research operations could be impacted.
“These shipments represent the product of the combined effort from our Laboratory and other partners to ensure that the vital mission that LLNL supports on behalf of NNSA does not cease,” said Peter Rodrik, manager for the Livermore Field Office.
In 2018, LLNL secured funding with NNSA’s Office of Safety, Infrastructure, and Operations to deploy the WIPP Central Characterization Program to characterize and certify LLNL’s TRU waste inventory. This ensures the waste being shipped to WIPP meets the disposal requirements for the facility. LLNL updated its safety basis documentation, underwent multiple readiness activities, and began characterizing its TRU waste in 2019.
Once the waste was certified and ready for shipment, the WIPP team loaded the waste containers into the TRUPACT-II shipping packages. All WIPP shipments are tracked while en route to the facility using a satellite tracking system known as TRANSCOM, which followed the shipment until its safe arrival at WIPP Sept. 19, following the approximately 2,000-mile journey.
Together with CBFO/WIPP, LLNL met the stringent requirements necessary to certify its TRU waste and received authorization to ship in August. The current campaign will continue until all the newly certified TRU waste is safely removed from LLNL.