DOE ends dispute with South Carolina on Pu removal

The DOE is working to remove plutonium stored at its Savannah River Site.

The Department of Energy has reached a settlement with the state of South Carolina to remove 9.5 metric tons (t) of plutonium from the state, the agency announced on August 31. Under the settlement, which resolves litigation over the storage of surplus plutonium at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C., the state will receive an upfront lump sum of $600 million in economic and impact assistance payments. In return, the DOE will be allowed more time (through 2037) to remove the plutonium from the state without the threat of lawsuits.

The settlement stems from the DOE's termination of the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility in 2018. The MOX facility was intended to meet a nonproliferation agreement between the United States and Russia to dispose of 34 t of weapons-grade plutonium by converting it to nuclear fuel for commercial power reactors. Reported to be 70-percent completed when construction was halted, the MOX facility was approximately $13 billion over budget and 32 years behind schedule, according to the DOE.

Work continues at WIPP to increase underground ventilation

A bucket of dirt is lifted out of the utility shaft that is being excavated at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. (Photo: DOE OEM)

Work crews continue with a project to place a utility shaft at a location west of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M., the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management announced on September 1.

DOE begins search for WIPP operations contractor

The Department of Energy on July 16 issued a request for information (RFI) for the operation of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. The DOE's Office of Environmental Management is currently in the acquisition planning phase to offer a new contract to provide services at WIPP. The RFI solicits input, through capability statements, from contractors that have the capabilities necessary to meet the major elements of scope for the upcoming competitive procurement process.

Researchers investigate effects of heat on water migration at WIPP

Deep in the underground of a New Mexico desert, the Department of Energy is studying the effects of high-level, heat-generating radioactive waste on water migration in the salt formations. At the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M., a collaboration between Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories is performing a series of borehole-scale process tests, called the Brine Availability Test in Salt (BATS) project.

National Academies: Disposing of surplus plutonium at WIPP viable

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s early-stage plan to dilute and dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is technically viable, according to an April 30 release from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Feature Article

WIPP @ 20

Participants to the 2017 Nuclear Criticality Safety Division topical meeting attended a tour of the WIPP facility, which marked its 20th anniversary this past year. Photos courtesy of WIPP

March 26, 2019, marked the 20th anniversary of the first shipment of transuranic (TRU) waste to the Waste -Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) facility in southeastern New Mexico. Celebrations of the 20-year mark of waste operations recognized the role of the WIPP facility in cleaning up legacy TRU waste from 22 generator sites nationwide.