Information from Oak Ridge Today and the January 2016 issue of “Advocate,” a publication of the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board
North Wind Solutions took over the operation of the Transuranic Waste Processing Center in west Oak Ridge in December. The Idaho-based company was awarded the $123 million contract to operate the facility in June.
North Wind replaces Wastren Advantage Inc., which had operated the center since 2010. The Transuranic Waste Processing Center, or TRU Waste Processing Center, is off State Route 95 in southwest Oak Ridge, south of Bethel Valley Road and west of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
North Wind will continue to process and store transuranic waste at the site until the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, reopens in New Mexico. WIPP is the only facility in the U.S. that permanently disposes of transuranic waste, or TRU waste.
The Oak Ridge site, which has been open 12 years, treats legacy transuranic waste that has been in storage for many years at ORNL. That includes lab equipment or materials from research and development at ORNL and personal protective equipment. Some of the radioactive materials are handled remotely and others in glove boxes.
The U.S. Department of Energy issued a “sources sought notice” in 2013 to begin performing market research to gauge whether there were small businesses capable of performing the work.
In December 2014, DOE environmental management officials said Oak Ridge been sending TRU waste for disposal at WIPP before two incidents in February 2014 caused a shutdown. It was sending two types of TRU: contact-handled, or CH, and remote-handled, or RH. CH TRU can be manipulated directly with proper personal protection. RH TRU is higher activity material and must be handled mechanically.
Of Oak Ridge’s original inventory of 1,500 cubic meters of CH, about 97 percent had been processed at the TRU Waste Processing Center, or TWPC, DOE officials said one year ago. About 68 percent of the inventory had been sent to WIPP. The waste is disposed at WIPP in shafts, or drifts, about a half-mile below ground in an ancient salt bed, and some of the waste has come from Oak Ridge.
Transuranic waste contains manmade elements heavier than uranium, such as plutonium, hence the name “trans” or “beyond” uranium. Transuranic waste material is generally associated with the human manipulation of fissionable material dating back to the Manhattan Project through today, and it primarily consists of clothing, tools, rags, residues, soil, and debris. The Manhattan Project was a top-secret federal program to build the world’s first atomic weapons during World War II.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Copyright 2015 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.