LOS ALAMOS, N.M., June 4, 2002 -- The U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory has begun the next phase of its Non-Traditional In Situ Vitrification (NTISV) technology that underwent a successful demonstration at Material Disposal Area V in Technical Area 21. The technology uses electrical energy to convert contaminated soil buried at the site into an inert, environmentally benign glass-like block. The site is located at the east end of DP Road and Trinity Drive in the townsite.
The hot test coring phase of the NTISV project involves a sampling section of an inactive absorption bed that was heated in April, 2000 to vitrify - convert the soil to a glass-like substance – in order to demonstrate an innovative technology for potential use in cleaning up similar sites at the Laboratory. The vitrified mass has now cooled to approximately 100 degrees F, and the low-level radionuclides present in the soil demonstration section of the absorption bed are now expected to be immobilized within the vitrified mass in a non leachable state. The scope of this current field effort is to core and collect samples of the vitrified mass, then analyze them for their mineralogical and chemical constituents. The samples will be collected using a drilling rig and a dust-suppression system to protect the public and workers from potential exposure to low-level radiation contamination during drilling activities. The samples will be submitted to an off-site contract laboratory for analysis and the data will be used to verify the effectiveness of the NTSIV technology.
The site once served as a disposal area for a now-closed facility that laundered radionuclide-contaminated garments. The facility had three discharge-absorption beds that accepted about 40 million gallons of waste over ten-years from 1945-1961. The waste contained inorganic compounds and radionuclides, including americium, plutonium, uranium, strontium, and tritium. The area was selected for the demonstration because of its variety of contaminants. The central section of the northernmost absorption bed, an area roughly 20 feet long, 30 feet wide and 22 feet deep, was vitrified in April 2000.
This demonstration is being conducted in accordance with the Laboratory's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) corrective action program that is regulated by New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) requirements. The Environmental Remediation (ER) project prepared and submitted an interim measures plan to the NMED in February 2000, which approved the interim measures plan in April 2000.
In situ vitrification technology has successfully been used at a number of contaminated sites over the past 20 years to stabilize a broad range of contaminants in various soil conditions. Nontraditional ISV differs from traditional ISV in that it melts material from the bottom up instead of the top down.
Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the U.S. Department of Energy and works in partnership with NNSA's Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories to support NNSA in its mission.
Los Alamos enhances global security by ensuring safety and confidence in the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction and improving the environmental and nuclear materials legacy of the cold war. Los Alamos' capabilities assist the nation in addressing energy, environment, infrastructure and biological security problems.
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