Final SRS transuranic waste arrives at US WIPP facility

11 May 2022

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Environmental Management (EM) said that the final container of legacy transuranic (TRU) waste from Savannah River Site (SRS) had arrived at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for permanent disposal on 14 April, capping the end of a journey for 239 shipments that began in 2011.

The Transuranic Package Transporter Model 3 (TRUPACT-III) shipping casks  weighing a combined 11,402,000 pounds had been transported more than 347,000 miles to The US’s only underground nuclear waste repository.

“Each milestone reached gets us closer to completing EM’s mission of environmental remediation,” said Ken Princen, assistant manager for the National Transuranic Program for EM’s Carlsbad Field Office. “The Carlsbad Field Office looks to build on the success of this campaign as we continue to safely dispose of transuranic waste at WIPP in the future.”

The first TRUPACT-III left SRS in August 2011, arriving after one  day at WIPP. A team of drivers travel straight through the 1,400-mile journey, taking about 22 hours. They stop only for fuel, bathroom breaks and official inspections. Shipments are monitored around-the-clock by a satellite tracking system.

The rectangularly shaped TRUPACT-III cask, certified by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was invented to accelerate the pace of clean-up at EM sites and reduce risk to workers by eliminating the need to cut up or reduce the size of some contaminated equipment or components being shipped for disposal at WIPP. Large TRU waste items include contaminated glove boxes, used motors and large-scale analytical equipment. All TRUPACT-III shipments have come from SRS.

“We are pleased to see the last of the legacy transuranic waste safely in its final disposition location,” SRS Site Management Representative Kerri Crawford said. “This effort has involved a lot of time, effort and coordination between SRS and WIPP representatives and couldn’t have happened without the great teamwork between the two sites.”

The TRUPACT-III cask — just over eight feet square and 14 feet in length — weighs about 55,000 pounds loaded and is transported on a custom-designed trailer. It contains up to 7.4 cubic metres of contact handled TRU waste, which is equivalent to 35 55-gallon drums.  In order for SRS to ship to WIPP, the waste must meet stringent WIPP waste acceptance criteria and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) permit requirements from the State of New Mexico. 

Loading a TRUPACT-III can take up to 12 hours and unloading and emplacing of its contents in the waste repository can take just as long.

An automated transporter is used to carry a cask into a room within the WIPP waste handling building. A multiple-bolt front end and inner lid are removed from the TRUPACT-III before it is moved to another work area, the payload transfer station, where the box containing the waste is pulled out and placed onto a facility pallet. At each step of the process, WIPP radiological workers perform surveys to monitor any potential problems. 

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