Lead Blankets

Lead Blankets


At nuclear power plants all across America, lead blankets (lead wool or lead plate sewn into a vinyl or urethane nylon blanket material) are used to provide additional radiation shielding throughout the plant. Over time, these blankets degrade and wear out, become unusable and, as a result, create a mixed RCRA hazardous and low-level radioactive waste (LLRW). Historically, these contaminated blankets are stored and consolidated at the nuclear plant, taking up limited storage space, and ultimately are shipped at great expense to an off-site low-level radioactive landfill disposal facility. This practice depletes the limited landfill capacity for this type of waste without an opportunity for recycling.

Veolia was approached by a nuclear power plant customer located in the southeastern United States to determine if there was a more cost-effective, environmentally-friendly approach to properly managing these lead blankets.


The nuclear facility had approximately 100,000 pounds of lead blankets stored on-site. The plant was looking for a less-costly option than landfill disposal, and wanted to see if there was any way to recover and recycle the lead inside of the blankets.

The scope of work for this project included:

  • Arrange for properly-permitted RCRA hazardous and LLRW transportation from a nuclear facility to a licensed processing facility
  • Decontaminate the lead blankets to the point where the lead can meet NRC requirements for free-release to allow for recycling
  • Arrange for the disposal of any lead blankets that cannot be decontaminated
  • Recycle the decontaminated lead


Veolia's Alaron Nuclear Services (Veolia) is unique in its ability to meet the complicated operating and regulatory challenges inherent in this project. Veolia was able to meet all of the nuclear plant's requirements by:

  • Arranging for properly permitted transportation through Veolia's network of audited and approved transporters
  • Providing the lead blanket decontamination services at our licensed processing facility in Wampum, PA
  • Arranging for the recycling of the decontaminated lead at an audited and approved recycling facility
  • Compacting the remaining blankets that could not be decontaminated to reduce the volume by 50%, reducing the disposal cost accordingly
  • Arranging for the proper disposal of the lead blankets that could not be decontaminated
  • ​An expedited approval by the customer of all facilities and transporters as a result of a master service agreement in place between Veolia and customer, providing full indemnification for the customer


The conventional approach of landfilling the lead blankets at a LLRW landfill would cost over $620,000 for this project. By working with Veolia, the customer was able to realize the following savings and additional value:

  • Decontamination and recycling of 92% of the lead blankets, saving valuable landfill space and recovering a valuable resource
  • A hard dollar savings of $345,000
  • ​The ease and efficiency of Veolia providing all of the services required, eliminating the need to manage and coordinate multiple suppliers and simplifying the process of supplier management

​From the sensitive transportation arrangements to the decontamination and recycling of the lead blankets, Veolia is able to provide the resources, expertise and experience to effectively manage all aspects of what is a complicated and environmentally sensitive undertaking.

Nuclear Services
Nuclear decontamination and asset recovery solutions