WIPP Update

March 19, 2015

WIPP is Center Stage at Waste Management Conference

WIPP took center stage at this week’s Waste Management Symposia 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona, where more than 200 participants attended a three-hour panel discussion titled “Lessons Learned and Return to Operations Following 2014 Operational Incidents.”

The panel focused on the WIPP fire and radiological release incidents that occurred in February of 2014, lessons learned, ongoing recovery activities, and impacts on affected Department of Energy (DOE) transuranic waste generator sites. WIPP recovery officials from Carlsbad and DOE Headquarters discussed the recovery plan and provided a status and plans for resumption of transuranic waste operations across the DOE complex. 

James Knox with the Arizona Department of Public Service performs a mock Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) level VI inspection of a WIPP truck and transuranic waste shipping containers during this week's Waste Management Conference in Phoenix.

James Knox with the Arizona Department of Public Service performs a mock Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) level VI inspection of a WIPP truck and transuranic waste shipping containers during this week's Waste Management Conference in Phoenix.

The annual conference provides a forum for discussing cost-effective and environmentally responsible solutions to the safe management and disposition of radioactive waste and radioactive materials.

Next WIPP Town Hall Meeting Scheduled April 2

The City of Carlsbad and DOE will co-host its Town Hall meeting featuring updates on WIPP recovery activities. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 2 at 5:30 p.m. Location: Carlsbad City Council Chambers, 101 N. Halagueno Street.  Live streaming of the meeting can be seen at http://new.livestream.com/rrv/.

WIPP Recovery Plan
Fact Sheet


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Did you know?

WIPP has made significant progress in its recovery efforts

On September 30, 2014, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) Recovery Plan was issued. It outlines the necessary steps to resume limited waste disposal operations in the first quarter of calendar year 2016. 

Several of the steps have been completed and WIPP is making good progress in its recovery efforts.



For more information about the WIPP Recovery Plan, see the Path Forward page.

About WIPP

The nation's only deep geologic repository for nuclear waste

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is a deep geologic repository for permanent disposal of a specific type of waste that is the byproduct of the nation's nuclear defense program.

CH and RH WasteWIPP is the nation's only repository for the disposal of nuclear waste known as transuranic, or TRU, waste. It consists of clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris, soil and other items contaminated with small amounts of plutonium and other man-made radioactive elements. Disposal of transuranic waste is critical to the cleanup of Cold War nuclear production sites. Waste from DOE sites around the country is sent to WIPP for permanent disposal.

TRU waste is categorized as "contact-handled" or "remote-handled" based on the amount of radiation dose measured at the surface of the waste container. Contact-handled waste has a radiation dose rate not greater than 200 millirem (mrem) per hour, while remote-handled waste can have a dose rate up to 1,000 rem per hour. About 96 percent of the waste to be disposed at WIPP is contact-handled.

TRU waste is long-lived and has to be isolated to protect public health and the environment. Deep geologic disposal in salt beds was chosen because the salt is free of flowing water, easily mined, impermeable and geologically stable. Salt rock also naturally seals fractures and closes openings.

The WIPP site, located in southeast New Mexico about 26 miles from Carlsbad, was constructed in the 1980s for disposal of defense-generated TRU waste. The underground repository is carved out of a 2,000-foot-thick salt bed formed 250 million years ago. TRU waste is disposed of 2,150-feet underground in rooms mined from the salt bed.

WIPP has been disposing of legacy TRU waste since 1999, cleaning up 22 generator sites nationwide.

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