ALEXANDRIA, Va. – EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) expects to receive more shipments of transuranic (TRU) waste in fiscal 2017 than initially planned, Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) Manager Todd Shrader said at this year's National Cleanup Workshop, held here earlier this month. As of this week, the total shipment tally was 68.
EM site managers, contractor executives, and a Carlsbad elected official discussed the remediation and disposal of TRU waste from across the DOE complex at WIPP during the panel discussion.
Shipments to WIPP resumed this past spring after the facility reopened in January. EM suspended operations at WIPP in 2014 after a truck fire and breach of an improperly remediated nitrate salt drum from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Located about 33 miles southeast of Carlsbad, the EM facility is the nation's only deep geologic repository for nuclear waste. CBFO oversees the facility.
Panelist Dick Doss, member of the City of Carlsbad, N.M., Council and Energy Communities Alliance, said three to four shipments go to WIPP weekly, and the rate of shipments is anticipated to increase.
Approximately 450 containers have been placed in the WIPP underground since January, according to Bruce Covert, president of Nuclear Waste Partnership, WIPP’s management-and-operating contractor. Shipments to the facility are currently underway from EM’s Idaho Site, Savannah River, Oak Ridge sites, and the commercial Waste Control Specialists (WCS) facility.
Shrader said WIPP is expected to receive approximately 250 shipments in the next calendar year; that waste will continue to be emplaced underground in Panel 7. According to Shrader, that panel is expected to be filled with TRU waste in approximately two-and-a-half to three years. Mining on Panel 8 will start later this year and is expected to take three years to complete.
Less than 1 square mile of the 16 square miles allotted for waste at WIPP has used, according to Shrader.
Jack Zimmerman, deputy manager of the DOE Idaho Operations Office, said the Idaho Site has approximately 1,000 shipments ready to go to WIPP.
The Idaho Site sends about two to three shipments to WIPP weekly, Zimmerman said. The site’s shipments will continue to comprise about half of all DOE complex shipments to WIPP for the foreseeable future, he added.