RICHLAND, WASH. – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) at Hanford surpassed a Tri-Party Agreement Milestone by four months in shipping 1,000 cubic meters of transuranic waste off the Hanford Site in route to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico before September 30, 2011. The milestone for shipping waste was met in May 2011.
Since the shipments began in 2000, 620 shipments have left the Hanford Site, a total of 4,137 cubic meters of transuranic waste. Milestones for shipping transuranic waste were established in 2010.
The shipments contained 55-gallon drums and steel boxes, called standard waste boxes, filled with contaminated solid waste, such as debris from cleaning out plutonium production facilities, used protective clothing, and old laboratory equipment. The contaminant of concern is primarily plutonium, as well as trace amounts of other transuranic elements, which have higher atomic weights than uranium.
Some of the waste was shipped to a facility in Idaho for compaction before transportation by truck to the WIPP.
A second related milestone calls for completion of all drum and standard waste box shipments containing contact-handled transuranic waste to be completed by 2018.
Transuranic waste shipments to the WIPP resumed in March of 2010 as a result of $30 million in Recovery Act funding. Prior to that, shipments had been on hold for 18 months due to funding being allocated to other projects.
The Hanford Site is a field office of the DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM). EM is responsible for cleaning up our nation’s complex of sites associated with the United States’ nuclear weapons program and other DOE research and development activities.
The WIPP is a DOE disposal facility designed to safely isolate defense-related transuranic waste from people and the environment. Waste temporarily stored at sites around the country is shipped to the WIPP and permanently disposed in rooms mined out of an ancient salt formation 2,150 feet below the surface. The WIPP is located 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, N.M.