The Galloway is lowered into the utility shaft at WIPP. (Photo: DOE)
Progress continues on a new utility shaft at the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico as shaft-sinking crews recently surpassed the midway point at a depth of 1,076 feet. When complete, the full shaft depth will be 2,275 feet, with the team now halfway to the WIPP repository depth of 2,150 feet.
Southeast New Mexico College staff visit the WIPP site. (Photo: WIPP)
Two Department of Energy sites recently announced training partnerships with local technical and community colleges designed to offer students hands-on work experience while building a workforce pipeline to waste management jobs.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico. (Photo: DOE)
Waste management startup Deep Isolation announced that it has entered into a mentor-protégé agreement with Salado Isolation Mining Contractors (SIMCO), the new Bechtel National–led management and operations contractor for the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.
February 17, 2023, 3:03PMRadwaste SolutionsPeter Swift, Michael Apted, Lake Barrett, John Kessler, and Steven Nesbit
An electric continuous miner machine cuts out a waste-emplacement panel at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant salt repository in New Mexico. (Photo: DOE)
Used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive wastes are by-products of nuclear energy production and other applications of nuclear technology, and the consensus approach to disposing of those wastes safely is to encapsulate them and emplace them in stable geologic formations (geologic repositories) where they will be isolated from people and the environment for very long periods of time. The federal government has established environmental standards for waste isolation that any proposed geologic repository must meet.
In July 2021, the American Nuclear Society established a special committee to consider possibilities for revised generic environmental standards for disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in the United States. The committee developed a number of recommendations, which are contained in a draft report that was to be issued in February for review and comment by stakeholders. The draft report can be found on the ANS website, at ans.org/policy/repositorystandard/.
The committee’s draft recommendations are based on two underlying assumptions. First, that the relevant legislative framework for regulation defined in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) remains unchanged. Specifically, it is assumed that the Environmental Protection Agency will be charged with promulgating environmental standards for disposal and that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be charged with reviewing applications for disposal facilities using licensing requirements and criteria consistent with the EPA standards. Second, that existing generic disposal standards will be updated or replaced.
Two workers walk down an underground passageway at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant transuranic waste repository in New Mexico. (Photo: DOE)
While still lacking a deep geological repository for the permanent disposal of its commercial used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, the United States does have regulatory standards for geological nuclear waste disposal.
Having been written nearly 40 years ago, however, those standards are outmoded and lack transparency, according to a special committee of the American Nuclear Society, which has released draft recommendations on revising public health and safety standards for future geological repository projects in the United States.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico. (Photo: EPA)
Salado Isolation Mining Contractors (SIMCO), a single-purpose entity comprised of Bechtel National and Los Alamos Technical Associates as a teaming contractor, has assumed responsibility for managing and operating the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.
The first shipment of downblended surplus plutonium from SRS’s K Area leaves SRS. (Photo: DOE)
The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Environmental Management have completed the first shipment of downblended surplus plutonium transuranic (TRU) material from the K Area at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.
A radiological control technician checks radiation readings on waste containers at WIPP. (Photo: WIPP)
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is adding several conditions to the operating permit for the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M. The permit changes, which would prioritize the disposal of transuranic (TRU) waste generated in the state and limit the repository’s capacity, are contained in a fact sheet the NMED.
Workers walk down a passageway in Panel 8 at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in November. (Photo: DOE)
Employees have begun emplacing defense-related transuranic (TRU) waste in Panel 8 of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced in November. TRU waste is permanently disposed of at WIPP in rooms mined in a Permian salt bed 2,150 feet below the surface.
WIPP Blue Team participates in a final briefing before beginning a field contest in a recent national mine rescue competition. (Photo: DOE)
Mine rescue teams from the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) finished in the top 15 in competitions at the first-ever joint Coal, Metal, and Nonmetal National Mine Rescue Contest in Lexington, Ky., held on August 7–12.
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.
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.
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 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.
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).
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.