Fluor Daniel Fernald has refocused its waste transportation program to avoid any potential delays involving several off-site shipments of nuclear materials stored at the Fernald Environmental Management Project, the company's president said in an interview Friday.

After an 18-month suspension, low-level waste shipments resumed earlier this month from Fernald to the Nevada Test Site. Fluor stopped the shipments in 1997 when cracks were found in shipping containers, which caused fluids to leak from them. However, radiological tests of the liquids confirmed that they were not radioactive.

NTS received a batch of low-level waste from Fernald July 1, with another shipment expected to arrive this week, an FDF spokesman said. He added that shipments to NTS were critical for Fernald to accomplish cleanup and closure by 2006. "Those shipments are the backbone to meeting our closure milestone," the spokesman said.

FDF President John Bradburne said during the suspension, officials took several corrective actions and applied lessons learned within the site's Waste Management Project. Areas of improvements include waste container integrity, program oversight and emergency response.

"The tracking system placed on the shipment is one of the changes that we made," Bradburne said. "The message there is that it shows all of us how attentive we need to be to any kind of problem that could arise. The main thing I wanted to do is that when we resumed shipments, we were never going to run the risk of ever having a problem like that again. We had been cleared for about three months by the state of Nevada before we actually resumed shipments."

In addition, Bradburne said he hired Carlos Tellez as vice president for the project. "We've supported DOE in dealing with stakeholders and have been insistent that we have a squeaky clean packaging and shipping operation," Bradburne said.

Fernald has an inventory of 155,901 cubic feet of low-level radioactive legacy waste remaining to be disposed of at NTS by the end FY-2002. That equates to about 260 truck shipments. About 5.3 million cubic feet of waste has been shipped to NTS since 1995. Officials estimate that 110 million cubic feet of waste will be generated in the future through cleanups.

The first shipment was transported by Landstar Ranger. Subsequent shipments may be hauled by Tri State, Fluid or Landstar Ranger, companies which have been awarded contracts and have successfully passed the Motor Carrier Evaluation Program, the FDF spokesman said. Contents of the shipments included contaminated trash and "T-Hoppers," cone-shaped containers used to transport nuclear material within the DOE nuclear weapons complex.

Other off-site shipment projects at Fernald are occurring this month. The nuclear material shipments to Portsmouth, Ohio, will continue. A total of 68 shipments are to be transferred this week. About 90 shipments are to be sent off-site by the end of July. That material mainly consists of depleted uranium in a metal or compound form, Bradburne said. Shipments of liquid mixed waste to an incinerator at Oak Ridge are being transferred and should be complete by the end of the month, he said.

Fernald also is planning a fifth train load containing more than 60 gondola railcars of contaminated soil for shipment to Envirocare of Utah this week, he said.

In a related matter, FDF and DOE plan to discuss the Silos 1 and 2 Proof-of-Principle (POP) Testing Reports. Bradburne said the reports contain test results on remediation technologies that could be used to treat the material in the silos. "We have to amend the record of decision so that process really is choosing the technology," said Bradburne, who added DOE expects to issue it by the end of the year.

By then, he said more cleanups would be completed by employees who continue to embrace working themselves out of a job. "The team we've got assembled is the finest team of people I've ever worked with ... . Because of them we have made and will continue to make progress," he said. -- Shawn Terry