Complete excavation of Area G now estimated at only $9.1 billion

Q: How much does it cost to cleanup a 65-acre, 50-year-old,  nuclear weapons laboratory unlined dump full of low-level radioactive waste (LLW), radioactively contaminated infectious waste, asbestos contaminated material, transuranic waste, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and much more?

A: About 8 years of the Lab’s nuclear weapons activities budget.

First, define cleanup. (Closure is the better term to use.)

The Lab recently submitted a revised (September 2009) corrective measures evaluation (CME) of Material Disposal Area (MDA) G, located within Area G of Technical Area 54, at Los Alamos National Laboratory to the NM Environment Department. The goal of the CME report was to recommend a corrective measures alternative for closure of the site and to address contamination releases in compliance with the March 1, 2005, Compliance Order on Consent (Consent Order).

This CME report screened 14 corrective measures alternatives based on their ability to meet the regulatory threshold and other qualitative screening criteria. Seven of the 14 alternatives evaluated met the screening criteria and capital costs were estimated:

1. Alternative 1B: maintenance of existing cover – $9.4 million;

2. Alternative 2B: evapotranspiration (ET) cover – $64.8 million;

3. Alternative 2C: ET cover with partial waste excavation – $46.5 million;

4. Alternative 2D: ET cover with partial waste excavation, targeted stabilization – $48 million;

5. Alternative 5B: complete waste excavation, waste treatment, off-site disposal – $9.1 billion (This is down from last year’s estimate of $20 billion.);

6. Alternative 5C: complete waste excavation, on-site waste treatment, disposal of wastes in a RCRA Subtitle C landfill – $6.1 billion; and

7. Alternative 5D: complete waste excavation, on-site waste treatment, disposal of wastes in a RCRA corrective action management unit – $6.1 billion.(All alternatives include monitoring and maintenance, and soil vapor extraction, but don’t include a 55% contingency.)

The Lab’s recommended corrective measures alternative is Alternative 2C.

The right thing to do would be Alternative 5B, complete waste excavation. The Lab could cover the $9.1 billion by redirecting the $1.2 billion it spends annually on nuclear weapons activities.

The hard-working folks over at NMED have to make the final decision, and there will be opportunities for public input.

Find the report MDA G CME R1 Sept 09 [Warning, it’s 14MB]

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