The Effluent Management Facility, part of the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant at the Hanford Site. (Photo: Bechtel National)
This spring, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an insightful report reviewing and summarizing the status and performance of the largest projects and operations within the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM), which is responsible for the cleanup of hazardous and radioactive waste at sites and facilities that have been contaminated from decades of nuclear weapons production and nuclear energy research.
A map of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant underground, with a focus on Panels 7 and 8 at right. (Source: DOE EM)
The amount of salt mined so far from Panel 8 at the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is a lot. The DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) compared the amount to the weight of more than 46,000 Ford F-150s, about 16,000 African bush elephants, nearly 510 Boeing 747s, two Titanics, or enough to coat the rims of 3.6 million margarita glasses.
Miners working 2,150 feet underground extract the salt using grinders called continuous miner machines to create space to place defense-related transuranic (TRU) waste.
With WIPP’s Panel 8 scheduled for completion in a little more than half a year, crews recently crossed the 100,000-tons-mined threshold and, as of mid-June, are at 105,000 tons removed from the panel.