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Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) gets 13,000th nuclear waste shipment, and plans for much more

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant gets 13K nuclear waste shipments, plans to ‘ramp up’ to 17 a week, Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus  24 Nov 21, A 13,000th shipment of nuclear waste was delivered to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant repository near Carlsbad Nov. 11, marking a milestone since the facility first began accepting waste in 1999.

The shipment was made up of transuranic (TRU) waste from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory from that facility’s Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project.

About half of WIPP’s shipments in its lifetime came from the Idaho lab, about 6,600……..

Of the 13,000 shipments of waste sent to WIPP in the last two decades, 775 were considered remote-handled (RH)  waste, handled in shielded casks and emplaced in the walls of the WIPP underground – an underground salt deposit that gradually buried the waste permanently and blocks radiation.

To get that waste to the WIPP facility from nuclear sites owned by the DOE around the country, truck drivers logged about 15 million miles, per a DOE news release, without a “serious injury” or radiological release.

……. WIPP’s first shipment was delivered for disposal from Los Alamos in March 1999, and the site went on to dispose of waste from 13 facilities around the U.S.

The final shipment from Rocky Flats and Environmental Technology Site in Colorado came in 2005, and the 10,000 shipment was received – also from Idaho – in 2011.

The first RH waste shipment was disposed of at WIPP in 2007, and the facility hasn’t receive RH waste since 2014, although the process of resuming RH waste was underway and expected to take about three years.

……..  WIPP will continue to prioritize shipments from Los Alamos and Idaho, Knerr said, for the “bulk” of the next decade.

Reinhard Knerr, manager of the DOE’s Carlsbad Field Office said increasing shipments can be achieved ahead of an ongoing rebuild of the facility’s ventilation system planned to go into service in 2025 or 2026.

“We believe we’re going to be ready to resume increased shipments well before that,” he said.

To achieve that goal, Knerr said WIPP must complete multiple projects: filling and closing out the 7th waste disposal panel by 2022 and finishing emplacement in Panel 8 by 2025.

Then, he said WIPP hopes to emplace waste in Panels 11, 12 in the coming years and Panel 13 by 2034.

Plans were recently announced to mine Panels 11 and 12, described by WIPP officials as “replacement” panels for capacity lost in an accidental radiological release in 2014 that led to a three-year halt of WIPP’s primary operations.

To support the increase in waste emplacement and mining, Knerr said a fourth shift was intended to be added to the WIPP workforce.

“We have to make sure that we are mining,” Knerr said. “That includes the access drifts as well as mining out the panels themselves. We need to be sure that we have enough staff on site to support not only the mining needs that we have, but the waste emplacement as well.”

November 27, 2021 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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