The recent New Mexico Environment Department approval of a WIPP permit modification to change how it counts the WIPP Volume of Record has become somewhat of a political football for anti-nuclear organizations and politicians that oppose WIPP, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. Here are the facts:
1. WIPP was designated by the Land Withdrawal Act of 1992 as a repository for disposal of 6.2 million cubic feet of defense transuranic waste (DTRUW). It did not qualify the etiology of that waste, only that it be DTRUW meeting that definition.
2. The capacity limit was based on an inventory estimated in a 1980 EIS, and only included DTRUW buried in Idaho at that time and estimated waste production rates at the Rocky Flats Site through 2002. The 1980 EIS inventory did not include waste from future clean-up at other DOE facilities – Hanford, Oak Ridge, Savannah River, Los Alamos, etc.
3. WIPP has two disposal regulators; EPA regulates radiologic constituents and the Congressional limit of 6.2 million cubic feet. The state only regulates hazardous constituents. Each panel in WIPP is permitted, like a city dump, with a designated volume. There are no state volume limits or number of permitted disposal units it can permit.