WIPP Marks 100 Shipments From Oak Ridge Waste Processing Center

Source: EM Update | Vol. 13, Issue 26; Contributor: Shannon Carr | July 6, 2021

Contact-handled transuranic waste shipments leave the Transuranic Waste Processing Center in Oak Ridge en route for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) recently marked a milestone after receiving its 100th waste shipment from Oak Ridge, Tennessee since shipments resumed in August 2017, following a fire and radiological events in the WIPP underground in 2014.

The 100 shipments from the Transuranic Waste Processing Center (TWPC) were made up of 3,327 drums of legacy contact-handled (CH) transuranic (TRU) waste, representing a 50% reduction in the center’s waste inventory.

The accomplishment highlights progress toward meeting the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Site Treatment Plan milestones for TRU waste certification. The waste streams were generated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Nuclear Fuel Services, processed at TWPC, and certified for WIPP disposal by the Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) Central Characterization Program (CCP).

The Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) helped achieve the shipment milestone by allocating WIPP transportation resources to Oak Ridge, despite current shipping limitations imposed on the DOE complex as WIPP works to improve underground ventilation.

CCP operations personnel at TWPC characterize the contact-handled waste containers through a variety of techniques. Data generated from these processes are passed to the CCP project office in Carlsbad for additional validation and verification that each drum meets WIPP waste acceptance criteria, including new requirements for chemical compatibility added in response to the 2014 fire and radiological events at WIPP.

“The CCP team at Oak Ridge has shown incredible perseverance through the challenges they have faced since restarting shipments,” said Jake Knox, CCP-ORNL project manager at NWP, WIPP’s management and operations contractor. “From the WIPP incidents through the COVID pandemic, they have stayed focused on maintaining a compliant program and have made tremendous progress on cleaning up this site. I’m really proud to be part of this team.”

CCP has worked to implement new requirements in the certified program at ORNL. Those requirements had to be in place before shipments could resume in August 2017. Since then, seven of the 25 CH-TRU ORNL waste streams have been approved for shipment. Most of those waste streams are small. The 10 largest ORNL waste streams make up about 90% of the center’s inventory.

A large chunk of routine ORNL legacy TRU waste was disposed at WIPP in a previous CCP campaign prior to the most recent 100 shipments.

“The current working waste streams over the past few years were more challenging to certify for WIPP shipment, making the 100-shipments milestone all the more difficult to reach, but all the more rewarding,” Knox said.