Photo of WIPP employees underground
EM-3 Mooney Visits WIPP Site
July 23, 2020
Truck carrying halfpact.

Sandia National Labs Shipments Received at WIPP


July 30, 2020

Sandia National Labs Shipments Received at WIPP

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many things have changed, and new ways to accomplish required tasks have been developed. One thing that hasn’t changed is shipments being sent to and received at WIPP.

WIPP’s Central Characterization Program (CCP) is one of two programs that certifies waste for WIPP. Recently, CCP worked with Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) in Albuquerque to complete additional transuranic (TRU) waste shipments. On the evening of July 24, two shipments from SNL safely arrived at WIPP. These shipments, consisting of four HalfPACTs, made the 275-mile trip to WIPP and were the first shipments from SNL since 2012. There have been 10 total shipments made from SNL.

While these two shipments looked like just another TRU waste shipment, they were actually remote-handled (RH) TRU waste shipments. The waste was packaged in Shielded Container Assembles (SCAs) that allow some types of RH waste to be shipped in contact-handled (CH) transportation packages. An SCA is a lead-lined drum, weighing approximately 1,700 pounds empty, that can shield lower dose RH waste down to meet CH waste shipping levels. As a result of the additional weight of each container due to the lead lining, three SCAs are shipped in each HalfPACT. This allows the shipments to meet the required Department of Transportation weight limit of 80,000 pounds. While the waste is shipped and disposed of in the same way as CH waste, it is tracked as RH for disposal.

Prior to these or any waste shipment coming to WIPP, the DOE Carlsbad Field Office must issue a certification letter before TRU waste can be shipped. A certification letter is issued for each specific waste stream at every generator site. This letter authorizes NWP to ship and dispose of that waste.

“There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure there is available waste to ship to WIPP,” said Keith Stone, NWP National TRU Program Manager. “The waste must be characterized and certified that it meets the WIPP Waste Acceptance Criteria before being approved for shipment.”

Currently, there are no additional shipments scheduled to depart from SNL. As waste becomes available and is certified for shipment and disposal, additional shipments will be scheduled.