Morning Briefing - April 27, 2021
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April 27, 2021

Hanford TRU Waste Would Move to WIPP by 2050, Not 2030, Under Proposal

By ExchangeMonitor

Moving transuranic waste stored at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in Washington state to an underground disposal site in New Mexico would be completed by September 2050 instead of 2030 under a proposed change by agencies involved in remediating the former plutonium production complex.

The delayed schedule for moving transuranic waste from Hanford to DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M. will be the subject of a virtual public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Pacific Time on May 13, according to a notice issued Monday.

The meeting is jointly scheduled by DOE, the Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agencies that signed the 1989 Tri-Party Agreement on Hanford cleanup recently finished talks on revised milestones for tackling radioactive solid waste at the site. A registration link for the meeting is here.

The Tri-Party Agreement agencies are accepting public comment between now and June 14. Hanford last shipped transuranic waste to WIPP in 2011.

“The current schedule for the work is not feasible,” apparently in part because of a February 2014 underground radiation leak at WIPP, which damaged the salt mine and kept the disposal site out of service for about three years. WIPP reopened in 2017 at reduced capacity and is not expected to reach pre-accident waste emplacement levels until a major new ventilation project is finished around 2025.

“Under the proposal, 99% of the [transuranic mixed] TRUM waste would be shipped to the WIPP by 2040,” according to a fact sheet published with the public comment notice. “A few large containers would be dealt with between 2040 and 2050.” The final tranche would include a few of the more-radioactive “remote-handled” containers “that would benefit from 20 years of radioactive decay,” according to the notice.

Over time, Hanford crews will retrieve about 17,500 containers of waste stored underground in Hanford’s low-level burial grounds to see if drums hold mixed low-level waste with a hazardous or chemical component, or primarily transuranic waste, according to the notice. About 11,000 containers have already been dug up and are now stored above ground at Hanford’s Solid Waste Operations Complex.

Editor’s note: Article changed on April 27 to correct a typographical error in last paragraph.