Large-box cask transfers resume at WIPP

20 January 2020

The US Department of Energy's (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) has received its first large-box cask of transuranic waste since the facility's temporary closure in 2014. Re-entry into service of the TRUPACT-III cask will accelerate the pace of clean-up at DOE sites while reducing worker safety risks.

The TRUPACT-III cask arrives at WIPP (Image: EM)

The TRUPACT-III - Transuranic Package Transporter Model 3 - cask allows DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM) sites to package and ship large-sized transuranic waste from the defence sector in a single box rather than in several smaller waste boxes. Large transuranic waste includes glove boxes, used motors and large-scale analytical equipment which has been contaminated with small amounts of plutonium and other man-made radioactive elements.

Mark Pearcy, chief operating officer and deputy operations manager of WIPP management and operations contractor, said the large boxes had been added back into the portfolio of waste packages which can safely be shipped to WIPP for disposal after the Implementation of new waste certification requirements and readiness performance. This had been achieved through the teamwork of the Savanah River Site waste generator, the National TRU Program, and WIPP, he said.

Workers practice removing the cover of a TRUPACT-III cask at WIPP (Image: EM)

Measuring 8 feet (2.4 metres) square and 14 feet in length, the TRUPACT-III weighs about 50,000 pounds (22.7 tonnes) when loaded - over twice the loaded weight of the "workhorse" TRUPACT-II cask which is up to 19,250 pounds. TRUPACT-III is transported on a custom-designed trailer. An automated transporter carries the cask into a separate bay from TRUPACT-IIs inside WIPP's waste handling area.

The TRUPACT-III first came into use at WIPP in 2011, but shipments using the cask were halted after the facility was temporarily closed following a truck fire and unrelated radiological event in 2014. Waste emplacement operations resumed in in January 2017. Before the TRUPACT-III casks could return to service, staff at both WIPP and the site where the waste was generated - in this case, Savannah River - had to be retrained and recertified. Equipment which had not been used for six years, including the transporter and the payload transfer system, had to be brought back to working condition.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News