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New Facility Saves $20 Million, Accelerates Waste Processing

August 15, 2012 - 12:00pm

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The new Cask Processing Enclosure (CPE) facility is located at the Transuranic Waste Processing Center (TWPC).

The Transuranic Waste Processing Center (TWPC) processes, repackages, and ships the site’s legacy TRU waste offsite.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.Oak Ridge’s EM program recently began operations at a newly constructed facility that will accelerate the completion of remote-handled transuranic (TRU) waste processing at the site by two years and save taxpayers more than $20 million.

The new Cask Processing Enclosure (CPE) facility is located at the Transuranic Waste Processing Center (TWPC). TWPC processes, repackages, and ships the site’s legacy TRU waste offsite. The TRU waste at TWPC has two designations: contact handled (CH), which has lower radioactivity and can be manually sorted and repackaged by workers, and remote handled (RH), which has higher radioactivity and is processed in hot cells by employee-controlled manipulators. About 1,500 cubic meters of CH waste and 560 cubic meters of RH waste remain at Oak Ridge.

RH waste processing has been ongoing in TWPC’s hot cells since 2008, but workers found that much of the processed debris labeled RH waste met the criteria for CH waste, which can be processed more quickly than RH waste. Employees determined that 200 of the 360 casks contain CH waste and can be managed in the CPE instead of the hot cells in TWPC.

“The CPE facility is a tremendous advantage for our TWPC mission,” said DOE’s TRU Waste Program Manager Bill McMillan. “We can divert a large portion of the RH inventory to a faster, less expensive processing method.”

The addition of CPE will allow Oak Ridge to remove its RH waste inventory from the site by 2016, instead of 2018.

With a substantial portion of the inventory containing lower levels of radioactivity, the EM program chose to construct the CPE, which provides multiple benefits. The new facility can process the lower-level waste quickly at a low cost. And while that waste is processed at CPE, workers will be able to clean and refurbish TWPC’s hot cells in preparation for processing the highly radioactive portions of the inventory in 2014.

The CPE has the capability to manage the significant quantity of groundwater in casks that originated from below-grade trenches. It is estimated that more than 100 waste casks contain groundwater, which is not allowed in waste disposed at DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M., the destination for much of the processed waste.

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