In the U.S., nuclear weapons production and commercial nuclear power plants have generated large quantities of radioactive materials. Providing for safe, secure, and transparent disposal of these radioactive materials promotes implementation of some arms reduction processes, reduces proliferation potential, and develops public confidence in continued use of nuclear power. It is widely accepted that the safest and most secure method for disposal of radioactive materials is interment in geological repositories. As the world's first fully licensed deep geologic repository for transuranic waste, WIPP can serve as a test bed for enhancing the concepts and design of future geological repositories for other permanent disposal programs in two major areas:
As a licensed repository, WIPP conducts an experimental program to address specific scientific/technical issues related to waste characterization, repository performance, enhanced operations and the five year re-certification cycle mandated by the 40CFR194 standard, which also provides for modification of certification. Modifications may be by additional planned or unplanned changes to the operational, regulatory and technical bases originally certified by U.S. EPA. Many planned changes being considered will require technical underpinning, which may include both radiological (actinide) and stable element chemistry experimental data collection.
Transparency is a term used to describe a combination of technologies and processes that provide information to outside parties for independent assessments of nuclear material control. The concept of transparency is a tool for developing confidence and acceptance of geologic disposal. Transparency applies to all aspects of a geologic repository system: site selection, characterization, transportation systems, operations, and materials control.
- Visit the Transparency web site at WIPP
- Download a Report to Congress on the Use of WIPP to Develop and Demonstrate Transparency Technologies (163 KB PDF)
- Visit the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, an independent monitoring agency operating through New Mexico State University.
- The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant- An International Center of Excellence for training in and demonstration of waste disposal technologies.
The Department of Energy’s Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) has restarted a program that will place the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s science lab – located at the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center – at the center of a joint effort between DOE and EPA.
The program, called the National Analytical Management Progr am (NAMP), will simplify funding and research exchange between participating DOE analytical labs and research laboratories affiliated with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Emergency Response Laboratory Network (ERLN). The ERLN is a national network of laboratories that addresses chemical, radiological and limited biological threats during environmental responses and significant national incidents.
Agencies within the EPA’s lab network can now work with participating DOE labs under a single established funding agreement through CBFO. The program officially restarted on September 24, 2010.
The NAMP has not been funded since the 1990s when it was at Idaho National Laboratory. Recently, however, a move was made by WIPP’s management and operating contractor, URS Washington TRU Solutions, to join analytical labs from all over the DOE complex with the ERLN.