Remediation of TRU Waste Drums at LANL - Potential Impact on the Shutdown of the Departments Waste Isolation Plant

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Type:  Report - Gov

Publisher:  U. S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General/Audits and Inspections - DOE

Published As:  Public


Topics:  Chemical Safety, Environmental Protection, Operations, Waste Management, Transportation and Packaging, Material Handling/Storage, Radiation Protection


On February 14, 2014, a radiological release from one TRU waste drum was detected in the underground repository at WIPP. As a consequence, underground operations at WIPP were suspended and the Nations only operating deep geologic repository for the permanent disposal of defense-related TRU waste was shut down for an indefinite period. The impact of the shutdown, both incurred to date and in the future, is valued in terms of tens of millions of dollars. In addition, the shutdown adversely impacts the remediation of numerous Department sites by delaying the permanent disposal of waste. The impact in both cases is highly significant. On May 15, 2014, visual evidence confirmed a breached container that originated from LANL. A special inquiry was initiated to determine whether LANL appropriately managed the remediation and repackaging of waste shipped to WIPP.

The Departments separate accident investigation had not yet determined the cause of the radioactive release incident at WIPP. Our review, however, identified several weaknesses in LANLs procedures for the development and approval of waste packaging and remediation techniques that may have contributed to the radiological event. Of particular concern, not all waste management procedures at LANL were properly vetted through the established procedure revision process nor did they conform to established environmental requirements. In our view, immediate action is necessary to ensure that these matters are addressed and fully resolved before TRU waste operations are resumed, or, for that matter, before future mixed radioactive hazardous waste operations are initiated.

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