The Department of Energy’s recovery plan for the problem-riddled Waste Isolation Pilot Plant indicated it would be 2016 before the underground repository in New Mexico resumes operations and accepts transuranic wastes from DOE cleanup sites around the U.S. Earlier plans have been put on hold.
However, work continues at DOE’s Transuranic Waste Processing Facility in Oak Ridge, and there is a mounting backlog of processed and repackaged wastes that will be shipped to WIPP in the future. Because of lack of storage space at the TWPC, some of the wastes are being transported to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for housing until off-site shipments resume.
According Mike Koentop, executive officer of DOE’s Office of Environmental Management in Oak Ridge, more than 2,200 55-gallon drums of contact-handled TRU waste have already been characterized and nearly 500 of them have been certified for shipment to WIPP.
The Central Characterization Project, which must approve each container that’s bound for the DOE repository, is still on site and evaluating the packaging of these long-lived radioactive wastes — some of the nastiest to be processed in Oak Ridge. “CCP has been focused on characterizing and certifying CH waste,” Koentop said.
There is an abundant inventory of remote-handled transuranic wastes yet to be prepared for disposal.
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