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Nuclear waste shipments to WIPP resume

CARLSBAD – Shipments of nuclear waste from a Chicago-area facility to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad resumed last week.

The U.S. Department of Energy-owned Argonne National Laboratory sent a shipment of transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste to WIPP on the morning of Dec. 20, read a DOE news release, and it arrived just before midnight the following day.

The 1,700-mile trip took about 38 hours, including time for the driver to stop and inspect the truck every 150 miles, or three hours.

“This is another milestone for the WIPP facility,” said Todd Shrader, manager of the DOE’s Carlsbad Field Office. “WIPP is dedicated to safely and compliantly accomplishing its mission to dispose of the nation’s TRU waste.”

The shipments of TRU waste contain clothing, tools, rags and other residues and debris contaminated with radioactive elements.

In fiscal 2019, WIPP expects to receive five shipments from Argonne National Laboratory, of the 330 planned shipments from across the country.

Idaho National Laboratory will send the most at 165 shipments, with 80 coming from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Another 43 are planned from Los Alamos National Laboratory and 37 will come from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

The facility is accepting about eight to 10 shipments per week, and emplaced 328 shipments last year.

“We assume 40 shipping weeks per year,” Shrader said. “That would make 400 a year. We come down a little from that just to be conservative. I would anticipate those numbers will stay there.”

Since it opened in 1999, WIPP has received 193 shipments from the facility.

About 6,100 shipments came from Idaho National Laboratory, the most in the DOE complex, records show, with another 2,045 coming from the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site.

Los Alamos National Laboratory sent the third-most shipments at 1,345.

Since opening, WIPP has received 12,300 shipments, with drivers traveling 14.7 million miles.