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.

ANS weighs in on NNSA’s Pu disposition plan

February 1, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions

The American Nuclear Society is urging the National Nuclear Security Administration to rethink its “dilute-and-dispose” plan for managing surplus weapons-grade plutonium. In comments submitted to the NNSA, ANS notes that a better solution for the agency’s inventory of surplus plutonium is to convert it to nuclear fuel for advanced reactors, as was originally intended.

The comments are in response to a December 16 Federal Register notice by the NNSA that it intends to prepare an environmental impact statement on the scope of its Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program. According to the notice, the NNSA intends to dispose of the entire 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium using its dilute-and-dispose approach, whereby the material will be downblended and shipped as transuranic waste to the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico.

Under the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, signed by the United States and Russia in 2000, the 34 tons of plutonium was to be converted to mixed-oxide nuclear fuel using the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site, in South Carolina. However, the Obama administration, citing rising costs, halted construction on the facility in 2016, and the project was eventually canceled in 2019.

American Nuclear Society recommends NNSA use surplus plutonium for clean energy

February 1, 2021, 11:16AMPress Releases

La Grange Park, IL – The American Nuclear Society (ANS) is recommending that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) consider using surplus plutonium from nuclear weapons as fuel for advanced reactors to generate carbon-free energy, rather than diluting and disposing 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico as proposed by the NNSA.

Initial Los Alamos comingled TRU waste delivered to WIPP

January 26, 2021, 12:09PMRadwaste Solutions

Workers at LANL's RANT facility load the first comingled TRU waste shipment from the DOE and the NNSA. Photo: DOE

The Los Alamos field offices of the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management and the National Nuclear Security Administration have completed their first comingled shipment of transuranic (TRU) waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

"Comingling NNSA and EM waste allows for more efficient shipments to WIPP," Kirk Lachman, EM Los Alamos field office manager, said on January 14. "Reducing LANL’s above-ground waste inventory is an important issue to our local communities and is one of our mission priorities.”

The comingled shipment consisted of one Transuranic Package Transporter Model 3 container with a total of 28 drums and containers inside.

NNSA to hold virtual public meetings regarding Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program

January 19, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration will hold two virtual public meetings on a new environmental impact statement for its Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program (SPDP). The meetings will be held on Monday, January 25, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) and Tuesday, January 26, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET). Participants can join by computer, telephone, or other device. A Notice of Intent contains a full description of the proposal and other options for providing public comment until February 1.

The program: The SPDP EIS will analyze alternatives for the disposition of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium using the capabilities at multiple sites across the United States. The NNSA’s preferred alternative, the dilute and dispose approach (also known as plutonium downblending), includes converting pit and non-pit plutonium to oxide, blending the oxidized plutonium with an adulterant, and emplacing the resulting transuranic waste underground in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), in New Mexico. The approach would require new, modified, or existing capabilities at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the Pantex Plant in Texas, and WIPP.

NNSA to review its “dilute and dispose” option for surplus Pu

December 17, 2020, 9:31AMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration intends to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) evaluating alternatives for the safe disposal of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium through its Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program (SPDP). The NNSA published in the December 16 Federal Register its intent to prepare the EIS, which will examine the agency’s preferred alternative, “dilute and dispose,” also known as “plutonium downblending,” and other identified alternatives for disposing of the material.

The NNSA is offering the public the opportunity to comment on the proposed scope of the EIS until February 1. In light of the COVID-19 health crisis, the agency will host an Internet- and phone-based virtual public scoping meeting in place of an in-person meeting. The date of the meeting will be provided in a future notice posted on the NNSA website.

WIPP could run out of disposal space, GAO says

December 4, 2020, 9:29AMRadwaste Solutions

The aboveground portion of WIPP’s current ventilation system. Photo: GAO

A study of the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico has found that the repository faces long-term issues with ensuring sufficient physical space and statutory capacity to dispose of the federal government’s inventory of transuranic (TRU) waste. WIPP is the United States’ only repository for the disposal of TRU waste generated by the DOE’s nuclear weapons research and production.

The Government Accountability Office study, Better Planning Needed to Avoid Potential Disruptions at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (CAO-21-48), was published on November 19.

New Mexico denies authorization extension for WIPP utility shaft

November 30, 2020, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions

Construction of a new utility shaft at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant transuranic waste repository may be put on hold after the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) denied a request by the Department of Energy and its contractor to extend state authorization of the project. The shaft is part of WIPP’s Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System, a $300-million project intended to allow simultaneous mining and waste emplacement activities in the geologic repository by increasing ventilation to the underground.

The NMED in April 2020 approved a request by the DOE and WIPP operator Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) for temporary authorization to begin construction of the utility shaft while the state reviews a modification to WIPP’s permit allowing the addition to the repository. That authorization expired on October 24, and the DOE and NWP asked for an extension of the authorization for an additional 180 days while the permit modification process continues.

DOE ends dispute with South Carolina on Pu removal

September 2, 2020, 11:59AMRadwaste Solutions

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

September 1, 2020, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions

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

July 17, 2020, 12:30PMRadwaste Solutions

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.

Tags:
Share: