Federal Recovery Act funding used to clean up past, hire new Argonne employees

By Angela HardinSeptember 8, 2009

ARGONNE, Ill. — The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has enabled the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory to initially hire 30 new employees to assist in the safe removal of transuranic (TRU) radioactive waste materials from several scientific research facilities.

These waste removal activities are being conducted under two projects – the Next Phase Transuranic Disposition Campaign and a project that addresses the packaging and shipment of materials to Idaho National Lab (INL). The deadline to complete the two activities is Sept. 30, 2011. Argonne plans to create three to four dozen new jobs to assist directly or indirectly in the two projects.

In May, the DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM) provided approximately $35 million in funding. Of that total, $25.35 million will be used to pay for the demolition of two buildings — the Chicago Pile-5 Research Reactor facility (CP-5) and Building 310. Asbestos removal in CP-5 is being handled by Interstate Asbestos Removal Company of Schaumberg, Ill. Demolition planning is underway for Building 310, which currently contains offices; the high-bay portion of the facility had previously been used for nuclear engineering research.

The remaining $9.65 million will be split between two waste clean-up projects. The first project is called the Next Phase Transuranic Waste Disposition Campaign. Under this campaign, TRU waste material is being removed from the Alpha Gamma Hot Cell facility in Building 212, and in other facilities in Buildings 200, 205, 306 and 331.

In accomplishing this project, Argonne facilities management employees expect to make at least 60 shipments of the remaining TRU materials to DOE's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, where the radioactive waste will be disposed of safely. Those materials will be packed in 30-gallon drum containers. Once these drums leave Argonne, they are under the control of the WIPP. In Illinois, these shipments receive a continuous police escort to the state border.

Under the second project, Argonne will continue shipments of other materials from the Alpha Gamma Hot Cell facility, which was closed in 2007, to INL in accordance with a long-standing agreement between the two labs. 

Overall, Argonne plans to hire about 37 more direct term- and contract-employees to help with the completion of the two projects, said Argonne Deputy Program Manager Devin Hodge. The lab is seeking project managers, project specialists, project controls, work planners, health physicists, health physics technicians, and hot cell operations personnel. These positions require applicants to have a mechanical and technical aptitude and experience in working in a high hazard environment, he said.

"These are well-paying jobs starting at $20 an hour and up, with a seasoned project manager earning a salary in the upper five figures," Hodge said. It is anticipated that another 12 jobs will be created to handle indirect support functions, he added.

"Without the support of ARRA funds, these projects would have been halted and the clean up of these facilities delayed," said Dan Pancake, a newly hired environmental project manager. "The removal of the radioactive waste materials will pave the way for more research space and future construction projects at the lab."

The two waste removal projects are a part of a larger EM investment to clean up legacy materials and facilities at Argonne. In April, EM announced that it would dedicate $99 million in ARRA funds toward the clean-up of former nuclear research facilities at the lab.

More information on Argonne's role in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act can be found on our ARRA page.

Photos of both ongoing projects can be found on Argonne's ARRA Flickr page.