WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT

Photo courtesy of WIPP

Photo courtesy of WIPP

 

HISTORY

Throughout the 1960s, government scientists searched for an appropriate site for radioactive waste disposal, eventually testing a remote desert area of southeastern New Mexico where, 250 million years earlier, evaporation cycles of the ancient Permian Sea had created a 2,000-foot-thick salt bed. In 1979, Congress authorized the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). The WIPP facility, located 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, N.M., was constructed during the 1980s. Congress limited WIPP to the disposal of defense-generated TRU wastes. In 1998, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified WIPP for safe, long-term disposal of TRU wastes. The first shipment of TRU waste was sent from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in March 1999.

WIPP has two primary regulators: the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and the EPA. In accordance with Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the EPA may authorize states to implement their own hazardous waste regulatory programs. The NMED regulates WIPP by way of a Hazardous Waste Facility Permit (HWFP) that details how the facility is to manage, store and dispose of the hazardous components, such as solvents, that are present in WIPP’s “mixed” waste. Mixed waste at WIPP contains both radioactive (TRU) and regulated chemically hazardous materials. The HWFP is renewed every 10 years.

primary focus

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.

HOST LOCAL COMMUNITIES

FY 2020 BUDGET


FY 2018 Enacted FY 2019 Enacted FY 2020 Request
376,571 396,907 391,642

(Non-Defense Environmental Cleanup. Amounts in thousands of dollars. Click here for the latest site budget.)

PRIMARY OPERATING CONTRACTORS

  • Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) – NWP is the DOE’s management and operations contractor at the Waste Isolation Plant (WIPP). NWP is an AECOM-led entity with partner BWXT and major subcontractor AREVA Federal Services.

  • Portage, Inc. (Carlsbad Field Office Technical Assistance Contractor) – The Carlsbad Field Office Technical Assistance Contractor (CTAC) provides technical and administrative support services to the DOE Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) in the areas of quality assurance, audits and assessments, safety, security, WIPP site operations.

  • CAST Transportation – CAST Transportation and Visionary Solutions provide trucking services to transport TRU waste from DOE waste generator sites around the country to WIPP.

  • Celeritex Services – Celeritex is a joint venture between Project Services Group and DeNuke Contracting Services and provides mobile loading services in support of the National TRU Program. Mobile loading units load TRU waste containers into Nuclear Regulatory Commission-approved packaging at DOE waste generator sites around the country for transportation and disposal at WIPP.

ELECTED LEADERSHIP

Federal Government

State Government

Local Government

MEDIA CONTACT INFORMATION

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 12,114 shipments safely transported more than 14 million loaded miles.

  • 93,142 cubic meters of waste disposed in the underground mine.

  • 172,721 containers emplaced in the WIPP underground.

SITE NEWS

Updated August 2019.
Information in this profile is sourced from DOE, NNSA, and the site’s online resources.