OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — The first load of transuranic waste from Oak Ridge, weighing nearly 80,000 pounds, was shipped for disposal under new management, according to a Department of Energy (DOE) release sent by United Cleanup Oak Ridge on Thursday.
The transuranic waste was created by Oak Ridge’s legacy defense-related research, the release explained. Now, employees at the facility are addressing the stockpile of waste.
The DOE said that the waste consists of clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris, soil and other items contaminated with small amounts of plutonium and other radioactive elements.
The waste was shipped through the Transuranic Waste Processing Center (TWPC), which was moved under the management of the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management’s cleanup contractor UCOR. Over two days, personnel prepared and loaded the waste into three shipping casks that carried 35 drums of material.
Representatives from Tennessee’s Highway Patrol and Emergency Management Agency inspected the trailer and approved its release. This approval then allowed the Office of Environmental Management’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, N.M., to authorize the shipment.
“The process went like clockwork,” TWPC Area Project Manager Randy Fadeley said. “Everyone on the team was dedicated to getting this job done safely and on time.”
After a two-day journey with a 10-person TWPC team, the load safely arrived at WIPP in Carlsbad for permanent disposal, the release said. According to the DOE, the waste repository is underground.
The contract between the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and UCOR continues for the next decade and resources and expertise will be available to address the remaining Transuranic Waste at Oak Ridge, the UCOR said. Approximately 98 percent of Oak Ridge’s inventory of transuranic waste has been repackaged and certified by employees.
The DOE explained that Oak Ridge has shipped around 85 percent of its contact-handled transuranic waste, and 70 percent of its remote-handled transuranic waste, which has higher radioactivity levels and must be processed with special equipment, to WIPP. The Department of Energy said it is set to continue regular shipments to WIPP until the site’s entire inventory is removed.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (U.S. NRC) explains that transuranic waste is a material contaminated by radioactive elements that have higher atomic numbers than uranium. U.S. NRC explains that the waste is primarily produced by recycling spent fuel or using plutonium to make nuclear weapons. Neptunium and americium are also transuranic elements that U.S. NRC mentions.