The Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico received 19 shipments of transuranic waste during April, according to the latest data.
Eleven of the shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) were hauled from Idaho National Laboratory, six from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and two from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. That is according to the DOE public webpage for WIPP and an agency spokesperson.
In the first four months of 2022, the underground salt mine received 55 shipments which is up slightly from 50 during the first four months of 2021.
Since the start of fiscal 2022 on Oct. 1, the transuranic waste disposal site has received 116 shipments, up from 100 in the same point in fiscal 2021. It should be noted, however, a multi-week outage that WIPP typically conducts during January and February is being moved to fall in 2022 to coordinate with installation of a new electric power substation.
The DOE and prime contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership say workers are entering the final stages of waste disposal in Panel 7, which should be filled this summer. Mining of Panel 8 is complete and it could be certified as ready to receive waste as early this month, according to WIPP management.
The onset of waste emplacement in Panel 8 is one of two significant factors that DOE hopes will eventually enable WIPP to again hit 700 shipments annually, as it did prior to a February 2014 underground radiation leak that kept the facility offline for about three years.
Portions of Panel 7 were left contaminated by the accident, forcing workers to be heavily-garbed in personal protective equipment during waste disposal. Panel 8 is free of the contamination and less protective gear will be required for workers, DOE has said.
The other big factor in future WIPP production is the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System, designed to triple underground airflow. The agency expects the delayed ventilation project to enter operation within the next four years.