(Illustration from Los Alamos National Laboratory (Hollis et. al.), "Performance Assessment and Composite Analysis for Los Alamos National Laboratory Material Disposal Area G," LA-UR-97-85, March 1997; Figure 2-7.)
The 10.7 million cubic feet (ft3) of "low-level"
radioactive waste buried in Area G -- a volume equal to about 1.4 million
55-gallon drums -- contain about 2 million curies of radionuclides.
(1) This "low-level" waste actually
includes spent reactor fuel and other highly-radioactive materials,
including tritium, plutonium-239, and the extremely dangerous plutonium
DOE's most recent estimate of its current low-level radioactive waste generation at LANL is 335,000 ft3 per year. (2) It is very troubling that DOE's newest estimate of annual low-level generation at LANL is about four times as great as its 1997 estimate (335,000 vs. 85,000 ft3/year).(3)
In addition to "low-level" waste, about 416,000 ft3 of transuranic (TRU) waste, containing over 470,000 curies of long-lived radionuclides such as plutonium, are estimated to be stored at Area G.(4) This is enough to fill about 59,000 drums. About 7,000 ft3 of additional TRU wastes are generated each year and stored at Area G for prospective shipment to WIPP.(5)
Before 1971, all TRU wastes generated at LANL were irretrievably buried on the Pajarito Plateau.(6) After this date, TRU waste was stored on site beneath mounds of earth; these stored wastes are now being moved into large fabric domes, visible on the skyline for many miles. In 1984, the definition of TRU waste was changed by a factor of ten, so that more plutonium wastes could be buried permanently at Area G and other disposal sites around the country.