What We Clean Up & Why
- Environmental Communication & Public Involvement
An active approach to cleanup and environmental restoration
One of the Laboratory's main environmental duties is to investigate where hazardous chemical and/or radioactive materials may be present as a result of past Laboratory operations and to clean up sites where such materials are still found above acceptable levels.
Locations include sites of former Laboratory buildings, on hillsides, in canyon bottoms, and old landfills.
These sites, called solid waste management units and areas of concern, are collectively called "potential release sites."
About 2,100 cleanup sites were originally identified for action, ranging from small spills to large landfills known as “material disposal areas.”
Cleanup of about half of the sites has been completed, and we have completed the initial investigation of about 90 percent of the remaining areas.
Using an area cleanup approach—dividing the projects into large, geographic areas—we manage legacy cleanup in an integrated, holistic fashion.
Cleanup of these sites consist of activities such as
- removing contaminated soil and disposing of it in licensed disposal facilities
- closing landfills and demolishing unused buildings
- removing containers of transuranic waste stored above ground
Major cleanup projects
The Laboratory is cleaning up hazardous and radioactive waste left over from activities during the World War II and Cold War eras.
Current cleanup work going on at the Laboratory includes two major projects:
- 3706 TRU Waste Campaign. A top environmental priority of the State of New Mexico and Department of Energy is the removal of 3,706 cubic meters of transuranic waste currently stored above ground at the Laboratory by June 30, 2014. (Read more)
- Upper Los Alamos Canyon Cleanup Project. We are cleaning up hazardous or radioactive contaminants in the areas around the Laboratory and town of Los Alamos where operations took place years ago. (Read more)
A third large project, now complete, involved demolishing unused buildings and cleaning up the Laboratory's oldest waste disposal site at Technical Area 21. (Read more)