Office of Environmental Management

EM Marks Waste Disposal Milestone at WIPP

February 5, 2019

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Employees emplace transuranic waste 2,150 feet underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for permanent, safe disposal.
Employees emplace transuranic waste 2,150 feet underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for permanent, safe disposal.

CARLSBAD, N.M.EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) recently marked a milestone when a room in the facility reached capacity with transuranic (TRU) waste.

   “This is another step in WIPP continuing to accomplish its mission of safely and compliantly disposing of the nation’s TRU waste,” EM Carlsbad Field Office Manager Todd Shrader said. “The workforce takes great pride in what they do, and it shows every day.”

   WIPP’s underground waste disposal panels, mined at a depth of 2,150 feet in an ancient salt layer, contain seven rooms each. Each room is approximately 13 feet high, 33 feet wide, and 300 feet long, and is separated by a 100-foot beam of salt.

   The latest waste emplacement accomplishment occurred in Room 5 of Panel 7. Emplacement activities begin in Room 7 of each panel, working backward to Room 1. Panel 7’s rooms 1, 2, and 3 remain to be filled. Room 4 is barricaded and entry is prohibited, the result of a decision to no longer continue ground control activities there. Emplacement will continue in the access drifts that connect all of the rooms, eventually reaching Room 3.

   Panel 8 is being mined ahead of Panel 7 being filled. Panel 7 is expected to be at capacity in spring 2021. Emplacement in Panel 7 and mining in Panel 8 both began in 2013. Each panel normally takes up to 2.5 years to be mined and outfitted, which includes installation of electricity and monitoring equipment, and air-regulating bulkheads, which are used to direct and control airflow throughout the underground.

   WIPP received more than 310 waste shipments in 2018, exceeding the 2017 total of 133. Since beginning operations in 1999, WIPP has received more than 12,300 shipments. The facility has safely emplaced over 175,000 waste containers in the underground for permanent disposal.

 

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