National Nuclear Security Administration safely and securely removes samples for processing and disposition

WASHINGTON –The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA), in close cooperation with the state of New Mexico, of plutonium-239 and americium-241 from the Lovelace Biomedical Research Institute (LBRI) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for processing and disposition on Dec.18, 2020.

LBRI, formally the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, requested assistance from the New Mexico Congressional Delegation, which in turn requested the help of DOE/NNSA in dispositioning samples with no commercial disposition pathway. The resulting partnership led to today’s achievement.

“This profoundly collaborative effort at the federal, state, and local levels ensured a successful project outcome that put the safety of New Mexicans first,” said Dr. William R. Bookless, Acting Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator. “We thank all those involved for their diligence, dedication, and professionalism on this important work, especially during such a challenging time.”

Following this successful transfer, NNSA and LANL will recommend to either re-use the materials or identify a final disposition strategy for the removed samples. Until a final decision is made, the materials are being stored safely and securely.

“The success of the Lovelace project depended on technical ability; close collaboration at the local, state, and federal level; and careful attention to nuclear and worker safety regulations,” said Thom Mason, Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. “I congratulate everyone involved for a safe, smooth effort.”

From the 1960s to the 1990s, DOE operated the Inhalation Toxicology Laboratory on Kirtland Air Force Base for defense-related research.  After DOE’s work was completed, the facility was cleaned out and eventually – in 2013 – privatized as the LBRI under a quitclaim deed with DOE and the State of New Mexico.