A truck carrying a transuranic waste shipment approaches EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico.
A truck carrying a transuranic waste shipment approaches EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico.

CARLSBAD, N.M. – The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) recently received its 13,000th shipment of transuranic (TRU) waste, marking an important landmark in EM’s mission to clean up the country’s Cold War legacy.

"We celebrate the arrival of the 13,000th transuranic waste shipment to WIPP. It's another huge milestone for the EM program,” EM Senior Advisor William “Ike” White said. “I want to congratulate everyone involved in this milestone, from the employees at the generator sites who certify and package the waste, to the workers at WIPP who mine the disposal rooms and prepare the waste before it's permanently disposed underground.”

White also thanked the WIPP drivers, who have logged more than 15 million miles to date without a serious injury or release of radioactive material.

Click here to view a video featuring White, senior WIPP managers, and local officials congratulating WIPP on the milestone 13,000th shipment.

The 13,000th shipment, which consisted of defense-generated contact-handled TRU waste, arrived at WIPP on Nov. 11. The shipment came from EM’s Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project (AMWTP) at the DOE Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site. About half of the shipments WIPP has received since opening in 1999 — more than 6,605 to date — have come from the INL Site. Eight shipments arrived at WIPP during the week of Nov. 8, including two from the EM Los Alamos Field Office in New Mexico.

TRU waste, a byproduct of the nation’s nuclear defense program, consists of tools, rags, protective clothing, sludge, soil, and other materials contaminated with radioactive elements that have atomic numbers greater than uranium. Most of the 13,000 shipments were made up of contact-handled TRU waste, which does not require shielding to safely handle, transport, and emplace in the WIPP underground repository. A total of 775 remote-handled waste shipments have been shipped to WIPP. The majority of remoted-handled waste containers are handled in shielded facility casks and emplaced in the walls of the underground repository due to their higher radiation dose rates.

Every WIPP shipment of TRU waste meets all U.S. Department of Transportation requirements, and WIPP drivers must pass stringent training requirements. Shipment protocols were developed through cooperative efforts with states, tribal governments, and DOE. Shipments are also monitored via satellite at all times.

The first TRU waste shipment to WIPP came from Los Alamos National Laboratory on March 26, 1999. Other milestone shipments include the final shipment from the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site in 2005; the 10,000th contact-handled waste shipment in 2011, also from the DOE INL Site; and the first remote-handled shipment in 2007.

“WIPP continues to be the cornerstone of DOE’s efforts to reduce the legacy defense TRU waste footprint,” said Reinhard Knerr, manager of the Carlsbad Field Office, which oversees WIPP and the National Transuranic Program. “WIPP’s transportation program has been a tremendous success, and I congratulate everyone involved on a job well done.”

WIPP is a DOE facility designed to safely isolate defense-related TRU waste from people and the environment. Waste temporarily stored at sites around the country is shipped to WIPP and permanently disposed in rooms mined out of an ancient salt formation 2,150 feet below the surface. The underground repository is located 26 miles outside of Carlsbad.