Oak Ridge has resumed shipments of transuranic waste to New Mexico after five years.
The waste is treated and processed in Oak Ridge. It is leaving the Transuranic Waste Processing Center, which is south of Bethel Valley Road on Highway 95 in southwest Oak Ridge. It is being shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico, where it will be kept underground permanently.
The first shipment left Oak Ridge on August 9.
Before then, Oak Ridge hadn’t made a shipment since 2012. The waste has been stored in facilities in Oak Ridge since 2014, when the shipments were suspended, said Jay Mullis, acting manager of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management.
The U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office has published a video about the resumption of shipments, which is considered an important risk-reduction activity. You can see the video below.
Transuranic waste consists of materials and debris that are contaminated with elements that have a higher atomic mass and listed after uranium on the periodic table. The majority of Oak Ridge’s inventory originated from previous research and isotope production missions at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Originally, much of the site’s transuranic waste was scheduled for shipment in 2014. However, weeks before shipments started, two events occurred at WIPP in February 2014—a truck fire and an unrelated radiological event—that suspended waste disposal operations, according to a DOE press release on Monday. These operations resumed in January 2017, and WIPP, an underground waste facility in southeastern New Mexico, has begun receiving shipments from select sites across the U.S. Department of Energy complex.
With operations at WIPP ramping up, Oak Ridge anticipates making multiple shipments each month, the press release said. Eligibility for shipping is based on sites verifying that the waste meets requirements for safe transportation and disposal. The exact allocation and sequence for shipping will be adjusted based on the emplacement rate at WIPP, operational needs at the WIPP and sites, and logistical issues, such as weather, that affect shipping.
WIPP is the only facility in the U.S. that permanently disposes of transuranic waste, or TRU waste. Waste is stored at WIPP in shafts, or drifts, about a half-mile, or 2,150 feet, below ground in an ancient salt bed.
Oak Ridge is one of several sites that is working to process, repackage, and ship transuranic waste offsite, DOE said in the video.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See our previous story here.
Learn more about the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant here.
Do you appreciate this story or our work in general? If so, please consider a monthly subscription to Oak Ridge Today. See our Subscribe page here. Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today.
Copyright 2017 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.