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WIPP: 12,000 shipments received since opening

Twelve thousand shipments of nuclear waste were disposed of at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in the almost two decades since the facility opened.

And 100 shipments were accepted since WIPP resumed operations in April, after a three-year halt following a 2014 radiological release and unrelated fire in the underground.

The entrance to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant nuclear waste repository outside Carlsbad. The site currently allows for 10,240 acres of storage, and its mission extends until 2050. (Courtesy of WIPP)

WIPP spokesman Bobby St. John said the site’s current mission extends until 2050.

He said there are no plans to expand WIPP’s land grant, which currently allows for 10,240 acres of storage.

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Each shipment, St. John said, contains three containers of transuranic waste – consisting mostly of laboratory clothing from nuclear laboratories.

Each container holds 14 55-gallon drums, totaling about 42 drums per shipment.

“We are all very proud of receiving the 12,000th shipment of transuranic waste and contributing to the Department’s cleanup mission,” said Todd Shrader, manager of the Department of Energy’s Carlsbad Field Office.

Shipments were accepted from a total of 22 generator sites since WIPP reopened, with five currently active.

Locations shipping to WIPP include Idaho, Oak Ridge, and Savannah River national laboratories, along with Waste Control Specialists in Texas.

“WIPP can only dispose of defense-generated transuranic waste, so sites that have this specific waste have already been identified,” St. John said.

Bruce Covert, president of Nuclear Waste Partnership, which oversees WIPP operations, commended staff at the facility for reaching the milestone despite the setback in 2014 when a container ruptured in the underground, contaminating the air with radiation.

“Our employees are among the best of the best who are proud to be part of a project that is benefitting the nation,” Covert said. “It takes the entire WIPP team, from the waste handlers, to the drivers who get the shipments here safely, to the employees at the generator sites who package, characterize, and certify TRU waste.”

Since the repository opened, WIPP drivers have transported waste more than 14 million miles, without any serious accident or injury, read a DOE news release.

There are seven panels dug into the underground salt mine, where the waste is emplaced, with an eighth planned to be mined this fall.

The nation’s only repository for the disposal of transuranic waste, WIPP’s mission to dispose of the waste is critical to the cleanup of Cold War nuclear production sites, read the release.


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