WIPP marks TRU shipment milestone

13 September 2017

The US Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) has received over 50 shipments of transuranic (TRU) waste since shipments resumed in April.

Operations technicians at DOE's Idaho site load a 4855-pound TRU waste package into a shipping container (Image: DOE Office of Environmental Management)

The New Mexico facility reopened in January, nearly three years after activities were halted following a waste drum rupture in an underground storage panel, and an unrelated underground truck fire. Shipments of TRU wastes resumed on 7 April, with the 50th shipment arriving in late August, the DOE Office of Environmental Management said yesterday. Six further shipments have since been received.

Since April, WIPP has received waste from DOE sites at Idaho, Savannah River, Oak Ridge and Los Alamos, and is currently receiving three to four shipments per week. These include 38 shipments from Idaho, nine shipments from Savannah River, and the first processed and packaged waste to leave Oak Ridge's Transuranic Waste Processing Center for permanent disposal since 2012.

Wastes from Los Alamos had previously been stored at Waste Control Specialists' Texas facility while WIPP was out of action, and other wastes had been stored at on-site facilities.

Jay Mullis, acting manager of the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, said resumption of shipments had been an important priority due to the large inventory of wastes in on-site storage. "These shipments will remove risk from our site and help fulfil our commitments," he said.

WIPP, located about 26 miles (42 km) from Carlsbad in south-east New Mexico, was constructed in the 1980s and has received over 11,900 shipments of TRU wastes since it began operations in 1999. The waste is emplaced in 2,150 feet (655 metres) underground in rooms mined from a 2000-foot-thick salt bed. It is the USA's only repository for the disposal of TRU wastes from the country's military program. The wastes consist of clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris, soil and other items contaminated with small amounts of plutonium and other man-made radioactive elements.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News