April 2019 marks 20 years since the first shipment of defense transuranic (TRU) waste arrived at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for permanent disposal. The WIPP site is a geologic repository located in the Chihuahua Desert 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico and the only operating geological repository in the world. TRU waste consists of tools, rags, protective clothing, sludge, soil and other materials contaminated with radioactive elements, mostly plutonium, that are byproducts of the nation’s nuclear defense programs. The WIPP mission is to characterize, package, ship and safely dispose of these materials in a 250 million year old salt formation, 2150 feet below the desert in Southeast New Mexico.
For 15 of the 20 years that WIPP has been operating, North Wind Portage (previously Portage) has been a key partner on the project, providing a broad array of technical support services through the Carlsbad Technical Support Contract known as CTAC. CTAC staff and subcontractors provide the DOE Carlsbad Field Office and the DOE National TRU Program with oversight support in the areas of: quality assurance (QA), audits and assessments, safety, security, WIPP site operations, environmental and regulatory compliance, scientific and international programs, TRU waste characterization and certification, TRU waste transportation and packaging, general business operations, information technology, and other technical and administrative support areas as needed.
CTAC staff and subcontractors played key roles in the WIPP recovery program following the 2014 fire and radiological release events. CTAC was able to access highly qualified specialists in the areas needed to support recovery and to get the facility open and back in operation.
Twenty years after that first shipment, WIPP continues to play a vital role in EM’s cleanup mission, accepting more than 12,000 shipments and removing all legacy TRU waste from more than 20 sites around the DOE complex to date.
The Mayor of Carlsbad, Dale Janway, presented a proclamation recognizing the milestone and declaring March 26 – April 26 as WIPP appreciation month.
See more details and photos in the recent DOE EM Update, Volume 11, Issue 16, April 23, 2019 at: https://bit.ly/2GE2jWa