Participants in the workshops in Germany toured Asse II, one of Germany’s two salt-based repositories, to gain insights into that facility’s technical challenges and proposed solutions. Pictured, left to right, are an Asse II employee, Bernhard Kienzler of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, CBFO Chief Scientist Roger Nelson, CBFO International Programs Manager Dr. Abraham Van Luik, and Andrew Wolfsberg, Acting Deputy Division Leader for Earth and Environmental Sciences at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
KARLSRUHE and PEINE, Germany – EM officials recently took part in workshops in Germany to benefit from the exchange of research and experience operating salt-based repositories for radioactive waste.
The workshops came after a memorandum of understanding EM’s Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) and other officials in the U.S. signed with Germany's Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) to share experience and knowledge on radioactive waste disposal matters. The parties signed the memorandum in September 2011.
The repository in the U.S., known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), is near Carlsbad, N.M. WIPP is a DOE facility designed to safely isolate defense-related transuranic waste in rooms mined out of an ancient salt formation 2,150 feet below the surface. Germany operated two salt-based repositories for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste disposal.
The workshops served to strengthen professional relationships and promote the flow of information between the U.S. and Germany. Germany offered lessons learned from extensive heat testing to help EM efficiently plan research to enhance understanding of long-term performance of salt for disposal of heat-bearing radioactive wastes, according to CBFO International Programs Manager Dr. Abe Van Luik. This testing will provide information for future decisions on the disposal of heat-emitting wastes, potentially in a salt formation.
“The idea is to ensure a greater research return from the technical and scientific investments being made in both countries, which helps save taxpayer money,” Van Luik said. “These exchanges of research plans and results between these two countries provide assurance that work done in one salt location will be available to understanding the chemistry and mechanics of rock salt in another location. It is a learning opportunity for designing the next test, or correcting an assumption, or rewriting a model to incorporate new process information. It is how technology and science advance.”
At the workshops, EM and BMWi announced the formation of the Salt Club, a partnership between the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland. Salt Club membership allows the countries in the club access to a review and publication process for developing reports on salt repositories. The process is administered by the Nuclear Energy Agency, which is part of an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries based in Paris. The first U.S. contribution to the club will be a “Salt Compendium,” a catalog of salt bodies worldwide being prepared by CBFO, Van Luik said.
The workshops were held in Karlsruhe and Peine. EM officials also toured Asse II, one of Germany’s two, now inactive, salt-based repositories, to gain insights into that facility’s technical challenges and proposed solutions.
Other organizations that helped host or organize the workshops included Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe, which is a university and large-scale research institution, and DBE Technologies in Peine, which provides management, scientific, and technical services.
WIPP has operated safely for over 12 years, and the scientific basis for its safety case is continually being improved.