Remote Processing Engineer Jeff Prince demonstrates the capabilities of the excavator. 

Source: EM Update Newsletter | Vol. 10 Issue 7 | April 13, 2017

Oak Ridge’s EM program is using a new machine designed and assembled at the site to process contaminated soil from the Tank W-1A cleanup project workers completed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Employees at the TRU Waste Processing Center operated by North Wind Solutions employ a remotely operated excavating system to remove and treat the soil from shielded containers. Using the new machine helps protect them against radiation dosage and the potential for airborne contamination while processing the contaminated soil.

“Our workforce takes pride in finding innovative solutions to accomplish challenging cleanup,” said Jay Mullis, acting manager of Oak Ridge’s EM program. “The engineering and operations personnel at the TRU Waste Processing Center stepped up and provided a path forward that allows us to


The soil mixer and conveyer for loading processed contaminated soil into waste drums for transportation and disposal offsite.

process and remove this highly contaminated waste stream offsite.”

The soil to be treated once surrounded Tank W-1A. The machine will remove the soil from 19 boxes and mix it with an absorbent. A conveyor moves the processed soil from the mixer to 55-gallon drums for eventual disposal as remote-handled waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside Carlsbad, New Mexico. About 60 drums are expected to be shipped for disposal.

The system has automated and manual functions to achieve maximum efficiency when removing and processing soil. The automated controls ensure the excavator remains within the footprint of the container. Controllers are able to operate the machine while viewing the containers through different perspectives provided by six cameras.



The excavator, complete with mounted cameras, will remove contaminated soil from storage boxes for processing, repackaging and disposal. 

Tank W-1A was commissioned in 1951 to collect and store liquid waste from radiochemical separations and high-radiation analytical facilities at ORNL. During its operation, a transfer line was suspected of leaking near the tank intake, causing significant soil and groundwater contamination in the vicinity. The tank became the largest source of groundwater contamination at ORNL. It was emptied and removed from service in 1986, and in 2012, Oak Ridge’s EM program removed the tank and surrounding soil.

The project is investigating using the system to remove, prepare and package other problematic waste streams.