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Los Alamos lab starts retreatment of 60 drums of nitrate salts

Workers install filtration systems to the RNS drums. Workers install filtration systems to the RNS drums. |  Photo: energy.gov

The Associated Press and KOB.com Web Staff
May 19, 2017 08:20 AM

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) - Workers from the Department of Energy's Environmental Management field office at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico have started treating 60 drums of remediated nitrate salts (RNS).

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They plan to treat about one drum per day and have the job completed this summer.

The drums, containing nitrate salt waste incorrectly mixed with an organic absorbent, currently are stored at LANL’s Technical Area-54.

To prepare, EM and LANL have conducted tests to determine the equipment and processes needed for the treatment process, which will involve mixing the RNS waste with water and an inert material to render the waste non-reactive. The RNS waste will then be repackaged in drums.

A drum from LANL with incorrectly mixed RNS was found to be the cause of the February 2014 radiological release at EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad.

Investigators determined that the mixture within the RNS drum created an exothermic chemical reaction, resulting in a temperature and pressure buildup that caused the drum to breach.

Those findings have helped develop measures for safer storage of the RNS drums prior to their treatment, including the installation of a supplemental cooling system where the drums are stored and the addition of high-capacity, high-efficiency particulate air filters and high-quality burst discs to ensure the drums do not over-pressurize. 

Before the RNS drums are shipped offsite, LANL’s TRU waste program must be recertified to ensure it meets the revised Waste Acceptance Criteria for the safe disposal of waste at WIPP.

Credits

The Associated Press and KOB.com Web Staff

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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