Transuranic express: wastes on their way to Wipp
Oak Ridge National Laboratory sent its first consignment of radioactive waste to the Wipp facility yesterday for permanent disposal.
The site shipped defence-related transuranic waste directly to the US Department of Energy's (DoE's) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (Wipp). A truck with three loaded Trupact-II shipping containers departed from Oak Ridge on 24 September and arrived at Wipp yesterday.
Packaging and certifying the waste took several months, the DoE said, and final approval was needed from both the Environmental Protection Agency and the New Mexico Environment Department. An audit report was also produced, which validated Oak Ridge's ability to perform the work by established procedures.
Wipp is designed for permanent storgage of defense-related transuranic waste. Waste temporarily stored at sites around the country is shipped to Wipp and permanently disposed of in rooms mined out of an ancient salt formation 650 metres below the surface. The project opened in 1999 and has so far received precisely 6894 shipments of waste, which covered almost 13 million loaded kilometres.
The USA's civilian radioactive nuclear waste management program by contrast has seen less success: The Yucca Mountain repository has been dogged by opposition and escalating costs, while current estimates putting completion in 2017 have been described as optimistic. A license application for construction has been submitted, but the lateness of the project has inconvenienced the nuclear utilities that have paid billions of dollars to government for the project. The US government has already refunded some utilities the costs they incurred building interim stores for their used fuel.