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Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Achieves Best Shipment Season in 10 Years

CARLSBAD, N.M. — During the calendar year of 2023, the team at EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) had its best shipment performance in 10 years, continuing the cleanup of sites in New Mexico and across the country.

In 2023, WIPP received 489 waste shipments from generator sites throughout the country, compared to 272 shipments in 2022. It’s the best shipment toal since the facility received 724 shipments in 2013.

Several factors enabled the increase in shipments, including:

  • Increased coordination with generator sites, which make the waste available for packaging and certification through the DOE-established Central Characterization Program;
  • More transportation support with mobile loading unit teams at generator sites and shipment drivers;
  • WIPP operational efficiencies gained by opening a new, uncontaminated set of underground storage rooms, known as a panel. Waste is disposed of in a set of panels located nearly one-half mile below the surface.

WIPP’s highest shipment total was 1,142 in 2006, with the lowest being 44 shipments in 1999 when the underground waste repository opened.

Since it began operations in 1999, WIPP has received more than 13,790 shipments, totaling over 75,480 cubic meters of waste emplaced. Per the U.S. Land Withdrawal Act, WIPP is limited to 175,000 cubic meters of waste over its lifetime.

While legacy waste from the EM Los Alamos Field Office remains a high priority, EM's Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site has traditionally been the most prolific generator, with more than 7,000 shipments so far over the course of its cleanup mission. See a related story in this EM Update issue on the cleanup program's significant progress in reducing the transuranic waste inventory at the INL Site.

WIPP is the nation’s only repository for the disposal of transuranic waste generated by nuclear defense activities. Salado Isolation Mining Contractors manages and operates the WIPP site for EM.