WIPP marks 25 years of TRU waste operations

April 3, 2024, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
A screen shot of a video marking the 25th anniversary of operations at the WIPP disposal facility. (Image: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management celebrated a major milestone for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant last week, marking the 25th anniversary of the receipt of the first waste shipment at the disposal facility in New Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert.

That first shipment of waste—from the Los Alamos National Laboratory on March 26, 1999—marked the official beginning of operations at the nation’s only deep, underground geological repository for disposal of defense-generated transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste.

To observe the anniversary, the DOE released a short video highlighting the history of WIPP, narrated by Mark Bollinger, DOE-EM’s Carlsbad Field Office manager.

Kudos: Attending a recognition ceremony at the WIPP site were officials from the DOE, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, State of New Mexico Environment Department, as well as elected New Mexico state officials, regional and local elected officials, community leaders and civic organizations.

“This is an exciting day for our employees and the surrounding area,” said Bollinger. “Without the dedication of the workforce, we would not be here today. Their attention to detail and safety is the reason WIPP has been so successful.”

“WIPP plays a vital role not only disposing of the nation’s TRU waste, but also in our national security,” said William “Ike” White, DOE-EM senior advisor. “Because of WIPP, more than 20 DOE sites have been able to safely dispose of their TRU waste, resulting in a reduced risk to millions of Americans.”

Some stats: Since WIPP’s opening, TRU waste shipments to the underground repository safely traveled over 16.5 million loaded miles, which would equate to approximately 34 round trips to the moon. This has led to the disposal of over 285,000 waste containers in the WIPP underground.

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