EM Assistant Secretary Anne White joins waste management staff from Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos (N3B) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to mark the second shipment of transuranic waste from LANL’s Area G to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant this year.
I had a wonderful opportunity to take part in a very special celebration last week — the 20th anniversary of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). EM is extremely proud of this facility, the only one of its kind in the U.S. and a critical part of reaching completion of cleanup at sites across the complex.
I joined DOE, contractor, congressional, state and community leaders for an anniversary dinner to recognize the incredible accomplishment of opening WIPP and all of its successes over the course of 20 years.
I was reminded of my days at DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) prior to 1999, when many thought WIPP would never open. More than 12,000 waste shipments later, WIPP is a testament to the leadership and dedication of numerous individuals on the federal, state, and local levels. It was an honor to be able to say thank you to so many for their invaluable support over the years.
It was also very important to me to thank WIPP’s miners and the site’s entire workforce, which make the mission happen every day. Their jobs are certainly not always easy, but day in and day out, they are making sure waste is being moved safely, reducing risks across the complex.
Also playing a valuable role is the EM Advisory Board, which was in Carlsbad last week. This independent group brings a breadth of experience to identify best management practices. Most recently, they have been focused on facilitating workforce and community engagement and building a sustainable EM organization.
The sustainability of our organization is crucial when you consider the number of employees who will be retiring in the coming years. I call it the “silver tsunami,” and it will greatly impact our ability to complete the work that lies ahead. That’s why I really enjoy meeting with early career professional organizations at our sites. I sat down with a number of WIPP employees who are in the early years of their careers and asked them about the challenges they face and what we can do to better recruit and retain early career professionals in the EM workforce. These discussions are always very informative.
I also had the opportunity to see firsthand progress on a number of vital infrastructure projects at WIPP, which include upgrades to electrical, fire suppression, and compressed air systems. Most site infrastructure is now more than 30 years old, and we must ensure that WIPP is able to continue its critical mission in the years to come.
Work is also underway on what will be the largest containment fan system in the DOE complex, the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System, which will significantly increase airflow underground and allow for simultaneous mining, waste emplacement, rock bolting and maintenance activities. I saw excavation for the system’s trailer complex utilities, and water lines being laid for its salt reduction facility, which will remove salt dust from the air prior to HEPA filtration.
With all of this infrastructure work at the site, it’s clear that WIPP not only has an amazing history to celebrate, but a very bright future ahead.
EM Assistant Secretary Anne White meets with early career professionals during a visit to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant last week.
At the conclusion of my WIPP visit, I headed to LANL, a place that holds a great deal of meaning to me. I spent some of my formative years at LANL. I’m always excited to go back and see advancements in EM’s mission — and, if I’m honest, to have a breakfast burrito in Los Alamos.
I had the opportunity to meet with EM Los Alamos Field Office (EM-LA) Manager Doug Hintze and his focused team. I am extremely excited about the work EM-LA is doing — particularly the early success of the chromium plume interim measure and resumption of transuranic (TRU) waste shipments to WIPP — and their potential going forward.
Speaking of waste shipments, my visit to LANL coincided with the second TRU waste shipment from Technical Area 54’s Area G to WIPP completed this year. I was able to meet members of the waste management team for Newport News Nuclear BWXT-Los Alamos, EM-LA’s cleanup contractor, and thank them for their dedication to shipping LANL’s legacy waste offsite safely and securely.
I look forward to my next visit to LANL and seeing just how far EM-LA has come in executing its vital mission.
I’ll have good memories of my latest trip to New Mexico. Thank you to everyone who made my visits to WIPP and LANL such a success!