Critical Material Handling for Radioactive Waste

Radioactive Materials Warning

Lauyans EPS designs and manufactures material handling equipment for a wide variety of products. This includes automotive parts, packaged chicken, red-hot steel ingots, ice cream and even radioactive waste.

In the mid-2000’s, Lauyans EPS was awarded the contract for the material handling equipment going into a plant built by the Department of Energy to repackage and ship low-level nuclear waste from the 1950-1970 era. The waste included industrial refuse such as clothing, machine parts, tools, soil, and sludge. This operation was known as the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project (AMWTP).

The waste was retrieved from unlined earthen berms in eastern Idaho where it was stored in 55-gallon drums and wooden boxes of varying sizes. The ability for the conveyor to handle a wide range of box and drum sizes, weights and conditions was essential.

Lauyans EPS designed chain-driven live roller (CDLR) and chain conveyor and transfers of varying widths to transport the drums and boxes through the facility for processing and shipping. Lauyans EPS equipment presented the waste to robots. The robots emptied the containers, sorted and repackaged everything.

Also essential was reliability. Much of Lauyans EPS equipment would become contaminated by the radioactive waste. Entering a contaminated area to replace a drive required special procedures and protective gear, a difficult and costly project. Then the drive itself became part of the waste. A high degree of reliability was critical to the AMWTP.

The repackaged waste was placed inside steel 55-gallon drums that were crushed by a massive supercompactor into 5” thick “pucks.” The volume of waste was reduced dramatically, saving nearly 6,000 trips by truck. These pucks in turn went into huge containers loaded two at a time on each truck. The sealed containers were transported over the road to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. There they were placed in permanent storage.

According to the Department of Energy, the project removed 13,500 cubic yards of radioactive materials for repackaging. This is the equivalent of nearly 50,000 x 55- gallon drums.
This process, and Lauyans EPS equipment, has been active for 17 years. Earlier this year, the project was completed. The last of the waste was repackaged. Then, all the material handling equipment used in the project was taken up, packaged itself and is now in New Mexico.

If your company has an unusual or demanding material handling situation, Lauyans EPS has the experience as well as the engineering and production capabilities to help you. Please give us a call.