LASG header
Follow TrishABQ on Twitter Follow us
"Forget the Rest" blog
LANL Area G Waste Volumes and Activities

(click here for full screen image)

(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 238 isotope.

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.


1.   Waste volumes interred up to 1995 are given in LANL (Hollis, et. al.), 1997, Performance Assessment and Composite Analysis for Los Alamos National Laboratory Material Disposal Area G, LA-UR-97-85, Appendix 2e.  Estimates of the annual volume of waste generation have been taken from the Department Of Energy (DOE) Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement [SWEIS] for Continued Operation of the Los Alamos National Laboratory [LANL], 1999.   Total decay-corrected curies of radioactivity present in 1995 are provided in LANL (Hollis, et. al.), op. cit., Appendix 2e.  Table 3-1 gives estimates of decay-corrected radioactivity from waste interred before 1971.  Table 3-7 gives corrected radioactivity from waste disposed from 1971 to 1988, and Table 3-12 gives the same information for wastes disposed from 1988 to 1995.  Annual disposal of radioactivity since 1995 is estimated by LANL in Table 3-21.  Back to Text

2.   DOE LANL SWEIS, Vol. II, Part I, Table I.1.1.3-1, p. I-6.  This is the estimate given in the SWEIS "No Action" alternative, reflecting current lab practices.  Back to Text

3.   LANL (Hollis, et. al.), 1997, Table 3-21, Appendix 2e.  Back to Text

4.   DOE, 1996, Baseline Environmental Management Report [1996 BEMR], p. "New Mexico 39" (for waste volumes).  Curies in storage were added together from annual TRU waste production figures given in Figure 3-5, Appendix 2e, of LANL (Hollis, et. al.), 1997.  Back to Text

5.   DOE, 1996 BEMR, p. "New Mexico 39." Units have been converted.  Back to Text

6.   LANL (Margaret Anne Rogers), 1977, History and Environmental Setting of LASL Near-Surface Land Disposal Facilities for Radioactive Wastes (Areas A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and T):  A Source Document, LA-6848-MS, Vol. I.  Back to Text

^ back to top

2901 Summit Place NE Albuquerque, NM 87106, Phone: 505-265-1200

home calendar contact contribute search