Last of SRS's legacy TRU waste arrives at WIPP

May 31, 2022, 12:12PMRadwaste Solutions
The final legacy TRU waste shipment from Savannah River Site departs the site in mid-April, on its way to WIPP in southeastern New Mexico for permanent disposal. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy reported this month that the final container of legacy transuranic waste from the Savannah River Site arrived at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for permanent disposal on the afternoon of April 14. The shipment capped the end of a journey for 239 shipments that began in 2011.

In all, trucks that carried the shipments weighed a combined 11,402,000 pounds and travelled more than 347,000 miles to the WIPP site.

The shipping cask: Transuranic Package Transporter Model 3 (TRUPACT-III) shipping casks were used for the TRU waste material. The first TRUPACT-III left SRS on August 24, 2011, arriving the next day at WIPP. For each trip, a team of drivers travelled straight through the 1,400-mile journey, taking about 22 hours. The teams stopped only for fuel, bathroom breaks, and official inspections. Shipments were monitored around-the-clock by a satellite tracking system.

The rectangularly shaped TRUPACT-III cask, certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was manufactured to accelerate the pace of cleanup at DOE sites and reduce risk to workers by eliminating the need to cut up or reduce the size of some contaminated equipment or components being shipped to WIPP for disposal. Large TRU waste items include contaminated glove boxes, used motors, and large-scale analytical equipment. All TRUPACT-III shipments have come from SRS.

The TRUPACT-III cask—just over 8 feet square and 14 feet in length—weighs about 55,000 pounds loaded and is transported on a custom-designed trailer. It contains up to 7.4 cubic meters of contact handled TRU waste, which is equivalent to 35 55-gallon drums. (By comparison, the workhorse TRUPACT-II weighs up to 19,250 pounds loaded and can hold up to 14 55-gallon drums.) Loading a TRUPACT-III can take up to 12 hours. Unloading and emplacing its contents in the waste repository can take just as long.

At WIPP: An automated transporter is used to carry a cask into a room within the WIPP waste handling building. A multiple-bolt front end and inner lid are removed from the TRUPACT-III before it is moved to another work area—the payload transfer station—where the box containing the waste is pulled out and placed onto a facility pallet.

Strapped to the pallet, the box rides 2,150 feet to WIPP's underground repository for emplacement. At each step of the process, WIPP radiological workers perform surveys to monitor any potential problems.

Comments: "We are pleased to see the last of the legacy transuranic waste safely in its final disposition location,” said SRS site management representative Kerri Crawford. “This effort has involved a lot of time, effort, and coordination between SRS and WIPP representatives and couldn’t have happened without the great teamwork between the two sites.”

Added Ken Princen, assistant manager for the national transuranic program for the DOE's Office of Environmental Management’s Carlsbad Field Office, "Each milestone reached gets us closer to completing EM’s mission of environmental remediation. The Carlsbad Field Office looks to build on the success of this campaign as we continue to safely dispose of transuranic waste at WIPP in the future.”

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