DOE awards $3 billion WIPP M&O contract to Bechtel affiliate

July 13, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico.

Reston, Va.-based Tularosa Basin Range Services (TBRS), a single-purpose entity under the umbrella of Bechtel National, has been awarded the 10-year, $3 billion management and operating contract for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) by the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM). Located near Carlsbad, N.M., WIPP is the DOE’s geologic repository for defense-generated transuranic waste.

The new contract replaces the current WIPP M&O contract held by Nuclear Waste Partnership, which expires on September 30. The contract with TBRS was announced on July 11.

CAST awarded WIPP transportation contract

June 21, 2022, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
A CAST Specialty Transportation truck loaded with TRUPACT-II shipping containers at WIPP. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) has awarded CAST Specialty Transportation a contract to provide transportation services for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the DOE’s repository for defense-generated transuranic (TRU) waste near Carlsbad, N.M.

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.

WIPP: Abnormal event declared, no risk to workers or public

April 11, 2022, 3:02PMRadwaste Solutions
The Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, in New Mexico. (Photo: DOE)

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and Joint Information Center (JIC) were activated on April 9 following an abnormal event that occurred during routine waste handling at the Department of Energy’s WIPP repository for transuranic waste, near Carlsbad, N.M.

BATS Part III: Carrying out phase 3 of the WIPP brine availability test in salt

March 25, 2022, 4:02PMRadwaste SolutionsMollie Rappe
Sandia National Laboratories researchers Melissa Mills, left, and Kristopher Kuhlman peer through a WIPP salt sample.

Last fall, scientists from Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories began the third phase of a years-long experiment to understand how salt and very salty water behave near hot nuclear waste containers in a salt-bed repository. Initiated in 2017, the Brine Availability Test in Salt (BATS) project is part of a spent nuclear fuel research campaign within the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE).

GAO report: WIPP projects continue to be at risk

March 17, 2022, 6:54AMRadwaste Solutions
Workers construct a new ventilation system's filter building last year at WIPP. (Photo: DOE)

Without a plan for addressing issues in completing construction projects at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, the Department of Energy cannot ensure that further cost increases and schedule delays will not continue, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. In particular, the GAO said, the DOE has not developed a corrective action plan to address root causes identified for the rising cost and the delay in building a new ventilation system at the transuranic waste repository.

DOE releases updated cleanup strategy

March 10, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) has issued EM Strategic Vision 2022-2032, a blueprint for planned nuclear-related cleanup efforts over the next decade. The document outlines environmental cleanup priorities for 2022–2032, focusing on safety, innovation, and improved performance.

According to a March 8 statement, the DOE is working to fulfill “the moral and ecological responsibility of safely dealing with contamination and delivering on environmental justice goals in communities that were vital to the development of nuclear weapons and advances in government-sponsored nuclear energy research.”

EM Strategic Vision 2022–2032, which is available here, is an update of previous iterations and was developed with feedback from regulators, tribal nations, local communities, and other partners.

Radiography unit at SRS verifies contents of TRU shipments to WIPP

February 16, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
Operators load a TRU waste drum into a real-time radiography unit for characterization at the Solid Waste Management Facility at the Savannah River Site. (Photos: DOE)

Operators at the Savannah River Site’s Solid Waste Management Facility can now characterize and certify newly generated TRU waste through the use of a real-time radiography unit that uses an X-ray system to examine the contents of waste containers. The equipment was recently installed to meet updated requirements set by the Department of Energy’s National TRU Program that involve evaluating the containers for chemical compatibility and oxidizing chemicals.

The shipments of TRU waste from SRS, in South Carolina, are sent to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), in New Mexico, for disposal.

DOE completes mining of WIPP’s Panel 8

October 14, 2021, 7:04AMRadwaste Solutions
An electric continuous miner machine chews through the last wall of salt in Panel 8’s Room 7 of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to complete the rough cut of the panel. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management this week announced that after seven years, mining of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s Panel 8 is finished. Created from an ancient salt formation 2,150 feet below the surface, Panel 8’s seven emplacement rooms are the next destination for transuranic waste brought to WIPP from DOE sites throughout the country.

WIPP-bound waste shipments rebound to pre-COVID rates

August 9, 2021, 6:55AMRadwaste Solutions
A shipment of transuranic waste approaches WIPP in New Mexico. (Photo: DOE)

According to the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM), shipments of transuranic waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico are back to pre-pandemic levels, with the deep underground repository receiving 12 shipments in one week this summer.

Savannah River doubles shifts for processing surplus Pu

July 8, 2021, 6:57AMRadwaste Solutions
A view of Savannah River’s K Area Complex, where plutonium downblending operations take place. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management has doubled the number of work shifts for employees in glove box operations at its Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The increased work pace will help the department meet its commitment to South Carolina to remove surplus plutonium from the state, the DOE said.

New area for TRU waste emplacement takes shape at WIPP

June 28, 2021, 3:05PMRadwaste Solutions
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.

Final RFP issued for WIPP transportation services contract

June 14, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management has issued a final request for proposals for a transportation services contract for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico. The current WIPP transportation services contract, held by CAST Specialty Transportation, expires on May 27, 2022.

TRU Waste Solution inDRUM Treatment

May 27, 2021, 2:39PMSponsored ContentStudsvik

Do you have TRU waste with characteristics and/or prohibited items not acceptable in their current configuration for transportation and/or disposal at WIPP? Such as liquids, oxidizers, corrosives, reactive materials, flammable liquids, and aerosol cans? Are you sorting and segregating the non-compliant waste forms and then developing process/treatment approaches (i.e., solidification, grouting, deactivation, etc.) to ensure your final waste form will meet transportation and WIPP’s acceptance requirements?

$163 million contract awarded for WIPP ventilation system

April 23, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
An illustration of WIPP’s Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System, expected to be completed in 2025. Image: DOE

Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the management and operations contractor for the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico, announced that it has awarded a subcontract valued at approximately $163 million to The Industrial Company (TIC) to complete the construction of the transuranic waste repository’s Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS).

Shipments of TRU waste to WIPP resume

April 21, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
Waste handlers take radiological readings as a crane lifts containers from a TRUPACT-II cask in the contact-handled waste bay at WIPP. Photo: DOE

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico is once again accepting shipments and processing transuranic waste following a two-month annual maintenance outage. According to the Department of Energy, WIPP is back to accepting five waste shipments per week, with post-pandemic plans to increase shipments to 10 per week.

Savannah River works to speed up shipments of surplus Pu to WIPP

April 9, 2021, 2:59PMRadwaste Solutions
Crews move equipment used to inspect drums holding diluted plutonium into a storage site in K Area at the Savannah River Site. Photo: DOE

Workers at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina recently finished transferring equipment to the site’s K Area in preparation of shipping downblended plutonium to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico for disposal. The plutonium is part of the 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium the National Nuclear Security Administration plans to ship to WIPP under the “dilute and dispose” option the department adopted following the cancellation of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility project.

Sparks from Los Alamos waste drum prompt WIPP evacuation

April 2, 2021, 6:56AMRadwaste Solutions

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's underground repository in New Mexico was evacuated for 13 days in March following an incident at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where a drum being packed with transuranic waste began emitting sparks.

As reported on March 31 by the Carlsbad Current Argus, an evacuation order was given on March 5 after WIPP was informed by the National Nuclear Security Administration that similar at-risk drums from LANL were emplaced for disposal in the repository. The order was lifted on March 18 after it was determined that the drums were compliant with WIPP’s waste acceptance criteria and did not pose a risk.