BY TED WYKA
Field Office Manager
Department of Energy/NA-LA
AND MIKE MIKOLANIS
Field Office Manager
Department of Energy/EM-LA
The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Enterprise Assessments’ Disposition of Excess Real Property Assessment at the Los Alamos National Laboratory Middle DP Road Site report reflects many of the challenges and complexities commensurate with conveying land that was the site of some of the earliest plutonium research in the nation. DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) are committed to the cleanup of legacy materials and fulfilling our obligations associated with land transfers at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and across the DOE complex.
The contamination found in 2020 along DP Road consists of three adjacent land parcels. Two of these parcels (A8-a and A16-a) are owned by Los Alamos County and known as the Middle DP Road Site. A third parcel (A8-b) is owned by Bethel Development Company. These land parcels are on property that was once part of LANL’s Technical Area 21. This site was a groundbreaking Manhattan Project-era site for nuclear research and development. As a nation, we made tremendous strides in the ensuing decades not only in nuclear research and development, but also in nuclear waste handling, disposition, and record keeping. These advancements continue to emphasize the safety of our workers and our neighbors.
At the same time, the legacy of the work conducted during the Manhattan Project and the immediate decades that followed are critical to DOE’s mission. The cleanup of the Cold War legacy and the management of remaining nuclear materials is what led to the formation of DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) in 1989 and EM’s Los Alamos field office in 2015.
Upon the discovery of the materials at the Middle DP Road Site, DOE, NNSA and LANL immediately undertook a comprehensive review of the procedures and practices associated with historic LANL property. While we continue to enhance these procedures and practices, the important fieldwork at the site proceeds safely and effectively. The materials found do not pose a threat to the public. DOE removed the contaminated debris and soil to fulfill our commitment to the property owners and to the public.
Over the course of several months, EM methodically sampled the sites to determine if additional contamination existed, to remove the previously discovered contamination, and if found, to address any potential newly discovered contaminated debris. Excavation of all planned sampling locations is now complete and backfilling is underway. All indications are that no further contamination exists in these three conveyed land parcels. Confirmatory sampling is being conducted. This process is critical to DOE’s commitment to the site cleanup completion, Los Alamos County, and to the community.
Among the improvements to come from our analysis of the Middle DP Road Site are better integration of the various organizations (DOE, NNSA and EM’s Los Alamos field offices, and their respective contractors) that have overlapping management and oversight responsibilities at LANL. Additionally, the lessons learned from this event will be shared with other DOE and NNSA sites and will be beneficial to sites transferring federal land to local communities.
DOE and NNSA value the thoroughness with which the Office of Enterprise Assessments analyzed the 2020 discovery of LANL legacy materials along DP Road. We will continue to coordinate closely with Los Alamos County and ensure that the safety of the public, the workers, and the environment remains our foremost priority at the Middle DP Road Site.