A transportation provider for the cleanup contractor at the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge Site in Tennessee was involved a January fender-bender while moving low-level radioactive waste along a highway in Arkansas.
No injuries resulted and no radioactive soil spilled in the accident, according to a Feb.7 DOE accident report.
The subcontractor, Metler Hauling & Rigging, hired by URS/CH2M Hill Oak Ridge (UCOR) was rear-ended by another truck during a Jan. 17 traffic backup in the left lane of Interstate 40 near Mile Marker 202 in Arkansas. The truck at the time was carrying four B-25 boxes of low-level waste (LLW) soil to the Nevada National Security Site.
A wrecker truck towed the subcontractor’s trailer, with the boxes, to the tow company’s facility, which has a security fence and is equipped with security cameras for continuous surveillance, according to the DOE report.
The next day, a mechanic determined the trailer could not be repaired easily. The boxes were subsequently moved to another trailer provided by the subcontractor. The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) conducted radiological surveys on the LLW boxes and found them apparently undamaged, with all dose rates at background levels.
The was shipment arrived in Nevada on schedule, Jan. 21.
It could be nearly a decade before the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in Washington state ships more transuranic waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, an Oregon official said last week.
However, “eventually Hanford will be the predominant shipper of waste to WIPP,” Ken Niles, administrator for the Hanford and Nuclear Safety division of the Oregon Department of Energy, said during a presentation to the Hanford Advisory Board.
Hanford has sent 650 waste shipments to WIPP, most recently in 2011, Niles said. Long-term federal projections anticipate another 6,450 shipments from Richland, Wash., to the underground salt mine near Carlsbad, N.M., Niles told the board.
Hanford shipments to WIPP are expected to resume somewhere from 2026 to 2028, he said. It’s about 1,800 miles between the two sites.
WIPP was closed to shipments from other DOE sites from February 2014 to April 2017, as it recovered from an underground radiation release. Since then, it has received waste from Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, Idaho National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Oak Ridge Site in Tennessee, Savannah River Site in South Carolina, and Waste Control Specialists in Texas.
Washington does not have its own version of the 1995 Idaho-DOE agreement that sets specific dates for removal of radioactive waste from the state, Niles said by email Sunday. In addition, transuranic waste is not the top cleanup priority at the former plutonium manufacturing center at Hanford, he added.
Before DOE places Hanford back on the WIPP schedule, the site must comply with waste acceptance criteria that were toughened after the 2014 incident. Hanford will also have to provide staffing, training, and funding for a shipment program, Energy Department officials say.