Office of Environmental Management

EM’s Idaho Site Recognizes WIPP Anniversary, Prepares for Its Own Milestone

April 23, 2019

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As many as seven transuranic waste shipments leave DOE's Idaho National Laboratory Site each week headed for EM's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
As many as seven transuranic waste shipments leave DOE's Idaho National Laboratory Site each week headed for EM's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

CARLSBAD, N.M. – As the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) celebrates its 20th anniversary, the largest shipper to the facility — the EM program at DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site — is set to achieve a milestone of its own.

The INL Site is scheduled to complete its mission to treat transuranic (TRU) debris waste at the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project (AMWTP) this year. Just 1,400 cubic meters of waste — about half of that TRU debris waste — remains at the facility to be characterized, treated, and repackaged.

To date, the INL Site has made over 6,200 shipments to WIPP containing more than 46,000 cubic meters of contact- and remote-handled TRU waste.

A defining feature of the AMWTP is its supercompactor, which reduces the size of waste. An average of five 55-gallon barrels can be crushed to fit into an overpack drum prior to certification and shipment. In this way, the INL Site has saved about 25,000 cubic meters of disposal space at WIPP, and the equivalent of about 6,000 shipments.

Jack Zimmerman, DOE Idaho Deputy Manager for Environmental Management, congratulated employees at WIPP for 20 years of dedicated service.

“Your role is crucially important to helping us meet the cleanup commitments to the citizens of Idaho,” he said.

The waste at AMWTP originated at the now-closed Rocky Flats Plant and other DOE generator sites. Approximately 65,000 cubic meters of waste was shipped to Idaho beginning in 1970. The waste was placed on an asphalt pad and covered with clean soil. Construction of the AMWTP began in the mid-1990s to retrieve, characterize, treat, certify, and ship the waste to WIPP and other disposal facilities.

The INL Site also ships to WIPP TRU waste exhumed from an unlined Cold War landfill that accepted offsite waste from 1954 to 1970. Since 2005, EM contractors have exhumed more than 8,000 cubic meters of waste from a combined area of 5 acres of that landfill. More than 20,000 containers of that waste — or about 4,350 cubic meters — remain to be shipped to WIPP.

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