April 9, 2007
The Honorable A. J. Eggenberger
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
625 Indiana Avenue, NW, Suite 700
Washington, D.C. 20004
Dear Mr. Chairman:
Thank you for your January 18, 2007, letter to Secretary Bodman requesting both a report and a briefing covering the following subjects: †(1) the risks and priority associated with transuranic waste (TRU) operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL); (2) the pathway for shipping the above-ground high activity drums to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) or actions to improve the safety posture at Area G where above-ground TRU is currently stored; and, (3) the strategy for retrieval and shipment of TRU stored below ground at LANL.
In response to the Boardís request, the National Nuclear Security Administrationís (NNSA) Los Alamos Site Office has worked with NNSAís contractor, Los Alamos National Security, to develop the enclosed report as well as the briefing that was provided to the Board on March 1, 2007.
NNSA and the Department of Energy recognize that a significant and timely reduction of the risks posed by the above-ground storage of TRU waste at Area G via the shipment of high activity TRU to WIPP can best be accomplished through the temporary acceptance, for one year, of increased operational risk to repackage higher activity drums at LANLís Waste Characterization, Reduction and Repackaging facility and to ship higher activity drums via the Radioassay and Non-Destructive Testing facility. †These risks can be mitigated in part through the completion by LANL of proposed safety modifications to these facilities prior to the resumption of operations.
This will allow LANL to dispose of an estimated 235 out of the 325 highest risk drums by January 2008. †This, combined with the lower-activity inventory scheduled for disposal, will total at least 33,000 Plutonium Equivalent Curies (PE-Ci) planned to be shipped from LANL to WIPP between October 1, 2006, and January 31, 2008. †The remaining above-ground TRU waste, which will include approximately seven drums of 300-800 PE-Ci combustible, high activity TRU and 83 solids drums, will be placed in a safe storage configuration until the high activity waste stored below ground is retrieved and processed for disposition beginning in FY 2009.
If you have questions, please contact me or Mr. James McConnell, Chief, Defense Nuclear Safety for NNSA, at (202) 586-4379 or Ms. Alice Williams, NNSA's Deputy Associate Administrator for Infrastructure and Environment, at (202) 586-6847.