CARLSBAD, N.M. – On March 26, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) celebrated its 20th anniversary, marking EM’s milestone event of opening the first underground repository for nuclear waste in the U.S.
After leaving DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, the first shipment of defense-generated transuranic (TRU) waste entered WIPP’s gates early that morning in 1999. It was greeted by the cheers and applause of hundreds who had gathered at the site to celebrate an event decades in the making. Congress had authorized WIPP in 1979, but it would be 20 years before waste was emplaced in a salt bed 2,150 feet underground.
Twenty years after that first shipment, WIPP continues to play a vital role in EM’s cleanup mission, accepting more than 12,000 shipments and removing all legacy TRU waste from more than 20 sites around the DOE complex to date.
“WIPP has been an integral part of the DOE EM’s national mission of nuclear waste cleanup for the past 20 years and is critical to EM’s goal of getting to completion at sites around the complex,” EM Carlsbad Field Office Manager Todd Shrader said. “We look forward to a very bright future.”
Bruce Covert, president and project manager of Nuclear Waste Partnership, WIPP’s management and operations contractor, said the past two decades have been filled with important accomplishments — with many more to come.
“It’s an honor to continue to build on the great legacy of this project,” Covert said.
As part of the anniversary celebration, a community ice cream social and an event for families are planned at the WIPP site. Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway has proclaimed March 26-April 26 as WIPP Appreciation Month.