DOE’s new storage containers for high-rad materials

DSC_4177Oak Ridge workers move one of the newly designed storage containers for highly radioactive materials. (DOE photo)

As noted in an earlier post, the Department of Energy has to come up hundreds of the special containers to store remote-handled transuranic wastes that have been processed at the agency’s Oak Ridge facility. The containers are needed because the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico is shut down, and it’s not clear when the underground waste repository will resume operations.

The containers are called “remote-handled overpacks” or ROPs, according to Mike Koentop, executive officer of DOE’s Office of Environmental Management. They are supposed to hold the hot waste materials and protect workers from hazardous doses of radiation. Koentop said the former contractor (Wastren Advantage) at the Transuranic Waste Processing Center worked on the design for the first-of-a-kind containers, and three companies in Tennessee, Colorado, and Idaho are involved in manufacturing them.

“The ROP is specially designed to safely and securely store processed remote-handled transuranic debris until it can be shipped for final disposal,” Koentop said via email. “The ROP includes layers of steel, concrete, and a thermoplastic inner liner, which is required to be water tight.  After the ROP is closed, it is secured using steel bolts.”

Koentop declined to discuss the cost of the containers because DOE is still engaged in the procurement process.

After the radioactive materials are loaded into the containers at the Transuranic Waste Processing Center, the containers are transported to a URS-CH2M Oak Ridge (UCOR) facility west of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The wastes will reportedly remain there until approval is granted to ship them to WIPP in New Mexico.

“A lot of work went into putting the plans in place to allow for the storage,” Koentop said. “It’s a great example of an innovative solution to a challenge, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the partnerships we have in Oak Ridge.”

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.