‘Road Show’ highlights Waste Isolation Pilot Plant reopening, nuclear waste transportation safety procedures

UPDATE: On April 10, 2017, WIPP received its first shipment of transuranic waste since reopening in January. “To see shipments arriving again at WIPP is celebrated not only by the WIPP workforce and the Carlsbad community, but also by our DOE host communities that support the critical missions of the Department,” said Todd Shrader, DOE Carlsbad Field Office Manager. 

March 30: The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico reopened in January, three years after its closure in the wake of a minor radioactive leak in 2014. It will begin receiving shipments of waste again in April.
To prepare for shipments to the Carlsbad facility, the world’s only operating deep geologic nuclear waste repository, "road shows" were staged along active waste transportation routes in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. WIPP, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the states hosted the events to engage with communities along the route from Idaho National Laboratory to the facility. WGA Policy Associate Lauren DeNinno was along for the ride.
The WIPP program is a collaboration between DOE and western states, which are responsible for establishing and implementing procedures for shipping Transuranic (TRU) waste. In 1989, WGA established a Technical Advisory Group, consisting of representatives from western states, to ensure the “safe and uneventful” movement of the waste. (Learn more about the Advisory Group) At the events, DOE and WIPP representatives showcased the program’s safety record and the high standards it maintains for drivers and trucks. State representatives of the WIPP program highlighted resources, including training, available to those in their states.

The tour began on Monday (March 27) in Fort Hall, Idaho, with an event for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Experts representing aspects of the WIPP program delivered a presentation to local officials and law enforcement on (among other issues) driver standards, inspection procedures and emergency response training and preparedness. TRUPact II containers used for transporting the TRU waste to WIPP were on display.

TRU waste is solid waste that has been contaminated with radiation in defense operations, and can include gloves and lab equipment. Tony Anderson, representing the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) that developed the inspection procedure for TRU waste shipments, described the containers as “the world’s most expensive garbage truck.”

The events allowed the public, elected officials, emergency responders, regulators and other stakeholders to learn how TRU waste is transported through their communities and speak directly with WIPP and DOE representatives.

“That’s really why we’re out here," said James Mason, Institutional Affairs Officer at the DOE Carlsbad Field Office. "To engage with you, the stakeholders, and to give you a chance to talk to and ask questions of all of our experts.”

The road show in Loveland, Colorado, highlighted the diverse array of stakeholders impacted by the shipment of TRU waste. Included among the over 50 attendees were members of the local fire department, hospital staff, state patrol, and emergency dispatchers. The tour also included Morgan City, Utah; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Pueblo, Colorado; and the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs, New Mexico.

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