The licensee of a mobile laboratory developed by Idaho National Engineering Laboratory estimates for each site at which it is used, the Rapid Transuranic Monitoring Lab could save the U.S. Department of Energy $250,000 in testing costs and six months in schedule. RTML, developed under the former buried waste integrated demonstration now known as the landfill stabilization focus area, has been loaned to Thermo Nuclear Services of Albuquerque, New Mexico to measure concentrations of radioactive contaminants at uranium mining and milling sites undergoing remediation under the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program.
Transuranic waste is material contaminated with radioactive elements heavier than uranium. However, the defining feature of transuranic waste is the extremely long life of its radioactive components. Most transuranic waste emits only alpha radiation, a lower order of danger than either beta or gamma radiation; but its radioactive life is measured in thousands of years.
Mobile laboratories have time and cost advantages over fixed facilities. On-site analyses eliminate the costs of sample shipping and heavy equipment remobilization. Mobile laboratories contribute to continuous project progress, which can shorten a project from several weeks to a matter of days. Mobile laboratories may also contribute to more accurate results due to eliminating sample transport and holding times.
RTML consists of two separate mobile trailers and three portable electric generators. One trailer houses the sample preparation laboratory, equipped with apparatus to prepare soil, air filter, and smear samples. The second trailer houses the analytical instruments and computers used to analyze for low-level concentrations of alpha and gamma-emitting radionuclides. The system assesses the spread of contamination by continuously evaluating and monitoring air samples for transuranics and provides isotopic identification of radionuclides in soil filters and smear samples at extremely low levels.
RTML will be used the first week in September at a FUSRAP site in Hazlewood, Missouri near St. Louis where it will provide rapid and continuous on-site information during remediation of buried waste.