WIPP or the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant workers will resume depositing nuclear waste underground after the repository was shut down for almost three years.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant or WIPP is the third deep geological repository in the world. It is situated in New Mexico, the nearest town being Carlsbad.
WIPP has received a license for permanently disposing of transuranic radioactive waste. The period is set for 10,000 years. Such waste is the byproduct of nuclear weapons production and research.
Back in 2014, the repository had to face some issues. It had to deal with the ever-increasing backlog of toxic waste. Some also questioned the repository’s safety.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant experienced a series of incidents. As a radiation source was discovered, the plant was shut down. The source of the respective issue was detected.
Although it has since been resolved, the WIPP remained closed off for almost 3 years. However, news about the repository was released.
On Wednesday, the United States Department of Energy issued a statement. It announced that the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant will be resuming its activity. More exactly, it has resumed depositing nuclear waste in the underground.
The U.S. Department of Energy is the owner of the WIPP. In February 2014, the department decided to shut down the repository. Its decision came after two main incidents.
February 2014 saw an underground truck fire. It also had to face a waste drum leak. This latter burst and released radiations. The problem and reason behind this latter problem were determined to have been caused by improper packing.
Last month, the Department of Energy cleared the repository operation to reopen. The Department contracts the Nuclear Waste Partners so as to operate the WIPP.
According to media reports, the first pallets have already been deposited. Reports state that two pallets were placed in one of the repository’s underground rooms. The two pallets were reported as being low-level radioactive waste drums.
Rick Fuentes went to offer details. He is an onsite waste handler and union president. According to him, the drum transfer went well. Said drums were moved from a storage building situated above ground.
They were then transferred to one of the WIPP’s underground chambers. The drums were already stored on site. They had reportedly been awaiting underground placement since the repository’s shutdown.
For the moment, WIPP workers will resume depositing onsite waste. Other waste shipments remain on hold. Defense sites and national laboratories also used the plant. However, it remains to be seen if shipments from said sources will be resumed.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant will be officially reopened on Monday. A ribbon-cutting event will take place. U.S. Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz, as well as other officials, are expected to participate.
WIPP has seen a number of repairs over the past year. Workers have reportedly taken to resolving a number of issues. As such, fire safety issues were addressed. Falling rock problems and comprised air flow issues were also taken into account.
The repository is used to store several transuranic waste products. More exactly, it deposits potentially contaminated gloves, tool, or other similar materials.
These are the result of decades of work involving the development of nuclear weapons. This waste is stored in thick, salt-rock beds. As such, it is deposited about 2,150 feet below ground.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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