Comment Dates on Plans to Expand Disposal at WIPP

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety News:

There are two opportunities to make public comment on the Department of Energy (DOE) proposals to expand the disposal options at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

DOE is seeking to use lead shielded containers for disposal of “hot” Remote-Handled (RH) waste and to dispose of six metric tons of “surplus plutonium.” 

Fact sheets and sample comment letters about both proposals are available on the CCNS website: Public comments about the proposal to use shielded containers are due to the New Mexico Environment Department by Monday, Sept.10. Public comments about the surplus plutonium proposal are due to DOE by Tuesday, Sept. 25. 

DOE is seeking to dispose of six metric tons of the surplus plutonium that have not previously been in the WIPP inventory. That waste would double the amount of waste from the Savannah River Site, potentially displacing waste from other sites. 

For New Mexicans, the proposal and current shipments also raise questions about whether Los Alamos National Laboratory is a priority site for WIPP. Even during the past 11 months of “accelerated” LANL shipments to WIPP, both Idaho National Laboratory and the Savannah River Site have shipped more waste than has LANL.

DOE wants to bring more “hot” RH plutonium-contaminated transuranic waste to WIPP without providing adequate justification and without an opportunity for a public hearing.

DOE submitted a hazardous waste permit modification request to the New Mexico Environment Department so that it can transport and dispose of “hot” RH waste in shielded containers. 

RH waste would continue to be shipped and disposed in large canisters placed in the walls of the underground rooms. If the Environment Department approves the request, RH waste in the shielded containers could be trucked to WIPP and emplaced on the floor in the underground rooms along with the contact-handled waste. Each shielded container would hold one 30-gallon drum of RH waste.