WIPP returns to routine operations

07 June 2018

Routine transuranic waste handling processing and underground emplacement activities at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, suspended following the discovery of a misaligned waste container in a pack of waste drums, resumed on 2 June. The recovery operation involved the underground disassembly and reassembly of the drum pack.

A pack of waste drums was disassembled and reassembled as part of the recovery plan (Image: WIPP)

The misaligned container was discovered during underground waste emplacement activities on 24 May. Underground waste handling activities were halted as a precautionary measure and the WIPP Emergency Operations Center was activated. There were no injuries or radiological release.

Under the recovery plan, approved by the Carlsbad Field Office of the US Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management, underground waste handling personnel disassembled the seven-pack of waste drums containing the misaligned container. They then rebuilt the waste assembly package before disposing of it in Room 5, Panel 7 in the WIPP underground. Some ground control work was also completed in Panel 7 to correct uneven flooring.

Operations at WIPP were suspended in 2014 for nearly three years, following two unrelated underground incidents: a fire in an underground vehicle and a radiological incident involving a waste drum rupture. Waste emplacement operations resumed in January 2017 after a stepwise recovery plan estimated to cost USD242 million up to the restart of operations. The facility is the USA's only repository for the disposal of transuranic radioactive waste, which includes clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris, soil and other items contaminated with small amounts of plutonium and other man-made radioactive elements from the US military programme.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News