Morning Briefing - July 10, 2018
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July 10, 2018

WIPP Faces Potential Excess of Waste for Disposal

By ExchangeMonitor

The amount of transuranic waste already emplaced at the Energy Department’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M., taken together with known “WIPP bound” material, doesn’t leave much room for more material under the cap established by the 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act.

That’s a takeaway from a June 26 presentation to a National Academy of Sciences panel by DOE Carlsbad Field Office Manager Todd Shrader

As of June, roughly 93,500 cubic meters of transuranic waste had been placed into the underground disposal site — well over half of the 175,560 cubic meter limit set by the federal legislation. Meanwhile, roughly 78,000 cubic meters more is destined for WIPP from the DOE inventory. This includes waste already in storage or projected to be generated from department facilities around the nation.

That would place the underground disposal facility only 4,000 cubic meters short of the currently allowed maximum. But that is before considering an additional 19,000 cubic meters of “potential waste” for the New Mexico site. This is “waste that may be intended for WIPP but requires resolution of a regulatory or other constraint” before shipment, Shrader said in his slide presentation.

That potential waste is could push WIPP to roughly 191,000 cubic meters of material, exceeding the current limit under the Land Withdrawal Act. The Energy Department and WIPP contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership have asked the New Mexico Environment Department to approve a new method of counting waste volume, which could shrink this all-in figure from 191,000 to 150,000 cubic meters.

Because many drums are “overpacked” in larger containers, a significant amount of empty space between drums gets counted as waste, Shrader said. The department wants to stop counting the empty space and, in the process, officially reduce the amount of waste already emplaced by 30 percent.