During the Cold War and Manhattan Project, Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico was used to develop and test nuclear weapons, leaving behind a legacy of nuclear waste and environmental contamination.
For the next decade, the U.S. Department of Energy planned to continue disposing of nuclear waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, while also improving infrastructure at the site and continuing clean-up efforts at nuclear facilities across New Mexico and the U.S.
In its 2020-2030 “Vision” released this month, the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) outlined plans for WIPP, and two other national laboratories it owns in New Mexico: Los Alamos (LANL) and Sandia (SNL) national laboratories.
WIPP is the nation’s only permanent repository for low-level transuranic (TRU) waste, which is permanently buried in an underground salt formation about 2,150 feet underground.
LANL and SNL serve as nuclear research institutions, studying the development of nuclear weapons and energy, along with methods of disposal of nuclear waste.
EM Senior Adviser Ike White said the Department issued its strategic vision to outline key accomplishments expected in the next 10 years, as part of a renewed effort of “in-depth” planning.
“I expect we will be able to do more, and go further, in making progress than just what is outlined in the document,” he said. “Broadly, the Strategic Vision is part of a more corporate-approach we are taking to managing the EM program.
“This vision document will help inform more in-depth strategic planning work across our sites. This is a living document and will be updated on an annual basis to reflect what we achieve, and our assumptions and planning moving forward.”
Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar said the EM’s work is critical to addressing decades of nuclear waste level from weapons development since the Cold War.