A truck carrying 40 tons of toxic waste sponsored by the government recently traveled from Tennessee’s mountains to New Mexico.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, known for hosting the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb in 1942, currently houses the Transuranic Waste Processing Center. According to Knoxville’s WATE, the center was responsible for shipping almost 80,000 pounds of waste from the plant, including materials contaminated by plutonium, a key component in building nuclear bombs like the one the US dropped on Nagasaki, Japan during World War II, and other radioactive elements.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission describes transuranic waste as any material contaminated by an element with a higher atomic number than uranium, which is 92. Since any element with an atomic number above 83 is radioactive, the waste being shipped out of Oak Ridge is highly dangerous.
Based on WATE’s report, it took the TWPC staff 48 hours to load 35 drums of hazardous waste, including items like soil, clothing, rags, and tools contaminated with trace amounts of radioactive materials, into three shipping casks.
After 10 personnel spent two days on the task, the toxic waste was transported to a government-managed “permanent disposal” facility for transuranic waste in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The report highlights that a significant portion of the waste generated at Oak Ridge originates from its defense-related activities, which likely involve the development of military technologies.
While the specifics of the lab’s current projects remain unclear, it appears that weapons production remains a possibility. But it’s still very unsettling to know that nuclear waste of such a magnitude was on the highway roaming freely amongst us.