Last of legacy TRU waste from SRS arrives at WIPP

05 May 2022

The final TRUPACT-III container of legacy transuranic (TRU) waste from the US Department of Energy's Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina recently arrived at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico for permanent disposal. A total of 239 such shipments have been made since 2011.

The final TRUPACT-III container of TRU waste left the Savannah River Site on 13 April (Image: SRS)

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.

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 - more than 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.

The final TRUPACT-III shipment from Savannah River arrived at WIPP on 14 April after a 1400-mile journey.

In all, trucks carried the 239 shipments weighing a combined 11,402,000 pounds (5172 tonnes) more than 347,000 miles to the USA's only underground nuclear waste repository, the DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM) noted.

"Each milestone reached gets us closer to completing EM's mission of environmental remediation," said Ken Princen, assistant manager for the National Transuranic Program for EM's Carlsbad Field Office. "The Carlsbad Field Office looks to build on the success of this campaign as we continue to safely dispose of transuranic waste at WIPP in the future."

"We are pleased to see the last of the legacy transuranic waste safely in its final disposition location," SRS Site Management Representative Kerri Crawford said. "This effort has involved a lot of time, effort and coordination between SRS and WIPP representatives and couldn't have happened without the great teamwork between the two sites."

With the completion of the final shipment from SRS, the TRUPACT-III loading equipment will be dismantled and offered for use at another DOE site.

Liquid waste at SRS

On 13 April, the Department of Energy-Savannah River (DOE-SR) and Savannah River Mission Completion (SRMC) signed a new partnering agreement that builds upon the collaborative working relationship between the two entities. SRMC - comprising BWX Technologies, Amentum and Fluor - is the liquid waste contractor at SRS.

DOE-SR and SRMC formally agreed upon the vision, mission, objectives, values, behaviours, issue resolution process, logistics and counterpart relationships that formed the basis for the Savannah River Site Liquid Waste (SRS LW) Program Partnering Agreement. A near-term Priority Action List was also developed with commitments that will be tracked at plan of the week meetings.

The mission of the SRS LW Program Partnering Agreement is for the SRS Liquid Waste Leadership Team to work together to treat and dispose of radioactive waste and operationally close both liquid waste tank farms at SRS by 2037 in a manner that safely, efficiently, and effectively protects workers, the public and the environment.

The Savannah River Site was constructed during the 1950s to produce the basic materials used in the fabrication of nuclear weapons, primarily tritium and plutonium-239. Five reactors were built on the site as well as support facilities including two chemical separations plants, a water extraction plant, a nuclear fuel and target fabrication facility and waste management facilities.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News