WIPP is the nation’s only repository for the disposal of nuclear waste known as transuranic, or TRU, waste. It consists of clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris, soil and other items contaminated with small amounts of plutonium and other man-made radioactive elements. Disposal of transuranic waste is critical to the cleanup of Cold War nuclear production sites. Waste from DOE sites around the country is sent to WIPP for permanent disposal.
CH and RH Waste TRU waste is categorized as “contact-handled” or “remote-handled” based on the amount of radiation does measured at the surface of the waste container. Contact-handled waste has a radiation does rate not greater than 200 millirem(mrem) per hour, while remote-handled waste can have a does rate up to 1,000 rem per hour. About 96 percent of the waste to be disposed at WIPP is contact-handled.
TRU waste is long-lived and has to be isolated to proctect public health and the environment. Deep geologic disposal in salt beds was chosen because the salt is free of flowing water, easily mined, impermeable and geologically stable. Salt rock also naturally seals fractures and closes openings.
WIPP has been disposing of legacy TRU waste since 1999, cleaning up 22 generator sites nationwide. For more information on the WIPP repository