Building 1028 in Technical Area 54 at Los Alamos National Laboratory where the four Flanged Tritium Waste Containers are currently stored. Courtesy photo
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Triad National Security and the Department of Energy have clarified their current plans for venting Flanged Tritium Waste Containers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in a letter to the New Mexico Environment Department.
A temporary authorization request submitted to NMED made public last week indicated that the project would start on or after Sept. 11, however, the latest letter says the current plan doesn’t have a definitive start date but LANL hopes to complete all necessary preparations to allow venting to begin this fall. The venting project is a one-time operation to place the containers in a safe configuration for handling and out-of-state transport, the letter states and requires a three-part readiness process that includes an internal readiness review, an independent readiness review performed by the contractor and a federal readiness review.
Triad has completed the internal and independent reviews and the DOE federal readiness review is now in the planning and scheduling phase. After DOE approval for the project is received, any identified actions will be resolved. The Environmental Protection Agency has approved an air quality permit for the activity, however, permission is also needed from NMED for treatment and transportation of the containers from TA-54 to TA-16 for additional “sort and segregation activities” prior to their transportation offsite.
NMED Secretary James Kinney noted last week that the proposed tritium emissions are controlled by the EPA and that the state only has jurisdiction over “what’s left in the containers after the emission is gone”. Speaking to the Legislative Committee on Radioactive and Hazardous Materials, Kenney said the project has put the state in a very bad position. (See https://losalamosreporter.com/2020/09/10/environment-secretary-says-lanl-tritium-venting-project-puts-new-mexico-in-bad-situation/)
Kenney told the committee NMED is evaluating the request for temporary authorization but that he recognizes that “no matter what NMED decides, there is some degree of risk to the public on both ends of the spectrum”.