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Below are the latest information and documents on current topics such as recertification and ongoing inspection activities:Get e-mail updates when this information changes.
On this page:
- Informal Public Meetings -- Panel Closure Redesign
- Panel Closure Redesign -- Planned Change Request
- Drum Accidentally Punctured in the WIPP Repository
- Salt Disposal Investigations -- Notification
- EPA-DOE & Stakeholder Meetings -- October 2011
- Repository Reconfiguration -- Planned Change Request
- Shielded Containers -- Planned Change Request
- Biennial Environmental Compliance Report (2008-2010)
- Public Meetings -- WIPP Recertification (2010)
- Public Meetings -- WIPP Recertification (2009)
- Drum Accidentally Punctured in the WIPP Repository
- Los Alamos National Laboratory TRU waste shipments suspension lifted
- Magnesium Oxide (MgO) -- Planned Change Request
- EPA WIPP Project Plan
- Idaho National Laboratory TRU waste shipments temporarily suspended
- U.S. DOE Documents -- Karst Report (John C. Lorenz) and Magenta Transmissivity Fact Sheet
- Final Baseline Decision -- Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Program (AMWTP) Waste Characterization Activities at Idaho National Laboratory (INL)/Central Characterization Project (CCP)
- EPA Reaches Completeness Determination on Department of Energy's (DOE's) Compliance Recertification Application (CRA)
- Idaho National Laboratories Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project Approval for Super-compacted (Compressed) Waste
- Final Rule -- Alternative Provisions to 40 CFR Part 194
- EPA Approves DOE's Request to Dispose of Compressed Waste at WIPP
- EPA Issues Final Decision on Remote-Handled Transuranic(RH-TRU) Waste
EPA will be holding two public meeting sessions in New Mexico related to DOE's panel closure redesign planned change request. The purpose of these meetings is to provide a forum to discuss the specifics of the panel closure redesign and EPA's upcoming proposed rulemaking, which is scheduled for publication in early 2013. The meetings will serve as an informal vehicle to get preliminary comments and input from members of the public in advance of the rulemaking and its associated formal public hearings. Staff from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) will also be on hand to answer any stakeholder questions/concerns. The logistics for both meetings in Carlsbad and Santa Fe are as follows:
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Carlsbad, New Mexico
U.S. Department of Energy
Carlsbad Field Office
4021 National Parks Highway
9:30 AM – 1:00 PM
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Santa Fe, New Mexico
New Mexico Environment Department
Harold L. Runnels Building
1190 St. Francis Drive
9:30 AM - 1:00 PM
On September 28, 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) provided a planned change request for panel closure redesign, which would modify Condition 1 of the Final WIPP Certification Decision for 40 CFR Part 194.
After 12 years of operating experience, DOE has acquired considerable experience and knowledge regarding the behavior of the WIPP repository, along with the nature and behavior of disposed transuranic (TRU) waste. In EPA's 1998 WIPP Certification Decision, the Agency listed a number of conditions - one of which was that the panel closure system (PCS) to be used in WIPP be "Option D," as specified in DOE's Compliance Certification Application (CCA). This option specified that certain components be constructed using Salado Mass Concrete (SMC).
After numerous large scale tests, DOE states that SMC cannot meet the design and performance requirements for the panel closures as specified in the CCA. Since results from monitoring for explosive gases in the closed panels has established that the measured concentrations of methane and hydrogen will remain below the lower limits through the operational period, the Department has submitted a new panel closure design - the Run-of Mine Panel Closure (ROMPC).
The Department submitted a performance assessment (PA) for the proposed panel closure redesign as part of their documentation package. The results of the PA show that WIPP will remain in compliance with all disposal requirements 40 CFR Part 191, Subparts B and C, and essentially have the same performance as the original Option D design.
Complete details of the panel closure redesign planned change request (including an overview presentation provided at an August 2011 technical meeting) can be found below:
- DOE -- Letter to EPA transmitting Panel Closure Redesign planned change request (9/28/11) (PDF) (2 pp, 263K)
- DOE -- Enclosure: Panel Closure System Design (PDF) (108 pp, 3,210K)
- DOE -- WIPP Panel Closure Redesign: Overview (8/23/11) (PDF) (11 pp, 284K)
UPDATED: EPA has sent DOE a series of comments related to the initial proposal, and DOE has responded with supplemental information on the panel closure redesign and associated performance assessment (PCS-2012 PA). All of this information can be found below in Adobe .pdf format:
- EPA -- Letter to DOE transmitting comments on Panel Closure Redesign planned change request (12/22/11) (PDF) (5 pp, 208K)
- DOE -- Response to 12/22/11 EPA Comments (4/17/12) (PDF) (1 p, 175K)
- Enclosure 1 (PDF) (38 pp, 2,984K)
- Enclosure 1 (PDF) (38 pp, 2,984K)
- DOE -- (Memorandum) Recommendations and Justifications of Parameter Values for the Run-of-Mine Salt Panel Closure System Design Modeled in the PCS-2012 PA (5/4/12) (PDF) (28 pp, 740K)
- DOE -- (Memorandum) An overview of the BRAGFLO two-phase flow parameters used to model the run-of-mine salt panel closures implemented in the PCS-2012 PA (6/7/12) (PDF) (2 pp, 263K)
- DOE -- Reponses to EPA Comments (6/14/12) (PDF) (4 pp, 237K)
- DOE -- Summary of Capillary Pressure Models (6/15/12) (PDF) (1 p, 38K)
- EPA -- (E-mail) Concurrence with proposed data ranges and values for PCS-2012 PA (6/19/12) (PDF) (1 p, 38K)
- DOE -- (Report) Analysis Plan for the 2012 WIPP Panel Closure System Performance Assessment (7/2/12) (PDF) (18 pp, 186K)
- DOE -- (Report) Generation of the LHS Samples for the AP-161 (PCS-2012) Revision 0 PA Calculations (9/6/12) (PDF) (172 pp, 2,111K)
- DOE -- (Report) Analysis Package for the Salado Flow Modeling Done in the AP-161 (PCS-2012) Performance Assessment (9/17/12) (PDF) (71 pp, 5,789K)
- DOE -- (Report) Analysis Package for Direct Brine Releases: 2012 Panel Closure System Performance Assessment (PCS-2012 PA) (10/1/12) (PDF) (32 pp, 1,311K)
- DOE -- (Report) CCDFGF Analysis Package for the AP-161 (PCS-2012) Performance Assessment (10/15/12) (PDF) (30 p, 6,686K)
- DOE -- (Report) Sensitivity of the AP-161 (PCS-2012) PA Releases to Parameters (10/15/12) (PDF) (34 pp, 858K)
- DOE -- (Report) Summary Report and Run Control for the 2012 WIPP Panel Closure System Performance Assessment (11/5/12) (PDF) (84 pp, 4,163K)
December 2012 Informal Public Meeting Materials (Carlsbad & Santa Fe, NM)
- DOE -- Fact Sheet: Proposed Panel Closure Redesign Planned Change Request (11/2012) (PDF) (2 pp, 213K)
- DOE -- Presentation: Panel Closure Redesign Planned Change Request (12/2012) (PDF) (9 pp, 487K)
- DOE -- Presentation: Performance Assessment of the WIPP Run-of-Mine Salt Panel Closure System (12/2012) (PDF) (22 pp, 1090K)
- EPA -- Presentation: WIPP Panel Closure Redesign Rulemaking (12/2012) (PDF) (7 pp, 140K)
On June 19, 2012, during normal waste emplacement activities in the underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) involving contact handled Waste Handling Operations (WHO) personnel, a forklift attachment breached an emplaced waste drum. A forklift operator had approached the waste face with a waste package loaded on the forklift and proceeded to align the forklift with a waste stack column. A WHO spotter was in position and signaled the forklift operator to stop but there was a delay in reaction time between the spotter's signal and the forklift operator's response. The breach was approximately 2 to 3 inches in length and approximately 7 inches from the bottom of the drum. The forklift operator moved the loaded forklift approximately 8 feet away from the waste face and lowered the payload to the ground.
The Facility Shift Manager was notified and personnel in the immediate area were directed to leave through the intake air travel path. Radiological monitoring for personnel in the immediate work area did not reveal any contamination on any of the workers involved. In addition, radiological air monitoring equipment for the affected work area did not alarm or indicate any detection of contamination. Within hours of the event, the Facility Manager directed the development of a work control document, for reentry into the area and to seal the damaged drum. Surveys of the drum, area, and equipment were conducted for radiological contamination. No contamination was found and the drum puncture was sealed.
DOE notified both the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and EPA of the event, including the cause and details of the incident. Waste handling activities resumed later that same day.
- DOE Drum Incident Underground (6/19/12) (PDF) (1 p, 46K)
- Picture of punctured (and subesquently sealed) drum (JPEG, 169K)
On August 11, 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) provided a planned change notification to begin preparatory activities related to the Salt Disposal Investigations (SDI) project at WIPP. Though SDI activities will start no sooner than October 1, 2011, DOE submitted early supporting documentation in support of this project.
The primary objective of the SDI project is to provide thermal, structural, and hydro-geochemical data for high temperature (greater than 160 degrees Celsius) effects in bedded salt. Contingent on adequate funding, mining of the test area is projected to being in October 2011 and continue for approximately 80 weeks. Once all equipment and preliminary testing has concluded, the heating tests are scheduled to begin in 2015 and continue for two years, followed by a cool-down phase and post-test forensics to be completed in FY 2018. The results of these investigations will fill information gaps in the current knowledge of thermo mechanical, hydrological, and chemical behavior of salt and wastes disposed in salt and form the technical foundation for design, operation, coupled process modeling, and performance assessment of future salt repositories for heat-generating nuclear waste.
DOE has submitted results of their preliminary testing and analyses (based onprevious EPA Unreviewed Safety Question [USQ] Determination guidance). The Department submits that the SDI will not have a significant impact on long-term performance of the disposal system, as demonstrated by a thermal analysis and an impact assessment. In addition, DOE states that the SDI will not require modification to waste disposal processes and will have no significant impact on waste disposal operations.
Complete details of the SDI planned change notification (including an overview presentation provided at an August 2011 technical meeting) can be found below:
- DOE -- Letter to EPA transmitting Salt Disposal Investigations (SDI) project planned change notification (8/11/11) (PDF) (3 pp, 317K)
- DOE -- Enclosures to transmittal letter (Notice, Management Proposal, Nuclear Safety Impact Analysis, Thermal Effects Calculation, Impact Assessment) (PDF) (191 pp, 11.7M)
- DOE -- WIPP Salt Disposal Investigations: Overview (8/23/11) (PDF) (31 pp, 2,460K)
Additional comments and correspondence related to the SDI planned change notification is also provided below:
- EPA -- SDI Comments related to Repository Footprint and Experiment Room Dimensions (compiled October 2011) (PDF) (1 p, 42K)
- EPA -- SDI Comments related to Features, Events, and Processes (compiled October 2011) (PDF) (1 p, 36K)
- DOE -- Response #1 to EPA SDI Comments: Isolation of Waste from Non-Waste Regions (10/31/11) (PDF) (12 pp, 332K)
- DOE -- Response #2 to EPA SDI Comments: Discussion of Predicted Long-term Heat Conduction (11/1/11) (PDF) (15 pp, 1,377K)
- DOE -- Response #3 to EPA SDI Comments: Effects of Convectively Transported Heat (11/4/11) (PDF) (3 pp, 570K)
On November 17, 2011, EPA issued an approval for the initial mining phase of the SDI project, based on responses provided by DOE. The final design of the heater test portion of the SDI project (which will not commence for a number of years) has not yet been submitted; the Agency will review and issue a decision on the heater tests at a future date. Please check our website periodically for additional updates.
- EPA -- Letter to DOE transmitting approval for the initial mining phase of the SDI Project (11/17/11) (PDF) (3 pp, 408K)
UPDATED: On June 20, 2012, DOE submitted revisions to the original SDI concept. These revisions added an additional component, and possible alternative to the SDI project entitled the Salt Defense Disposal Investigations (SDDI) project. The details of the proposed SDDI can be found below:
- DOE -- Letter to EPA transmitting Salt Defense Disposal Investigations (SDDI) project concept plan (6/20/12) (PDF) (2 pp, 338K)
- DOE -- Enclosure: A Conceptual Plan for Salt Defense Disposal Investigations for the Disposal of DOE-EM Managed Wastes (PDF) (61 pp, 3.1M)
EPA and DOE met in Albuquerque, NM, on October 18, 2011, to discuss various WIPP technical issues. All of the presentations and information from these meetings are provided in the presentations (in Adobe PDF format) below.
In addition, select staff from EPA, DOE, and NMED met with stakeholders in Santa Fe, NM, on October 19, 2011. The meeting minutes and action items resulting from the discussion are also attached below.
- DOE -- Agenda for techincal meeting (10/18/11) (PDF) (1 p, 25K)
- DOE Presentation -- CRA-2014 Strategic Planning (PDF) (3 pp, 86K)
- DOE Presentation -- Magnesium Oxide (MgO) Emplacement (PDF) (5 pp, 38K)
- DOE Presentation -- Salt Disposal Investigations (SDI) Waste Isolation/Configuration (PDF) (15 pp, 673K)
- DOE Presentation -- Summary of Repository Reconfiguration & Panel Closure Performance Assessment (PDF) (35 pp, 1,314K)
- DOE Presentation -- Panel Closure Redesign Planned Change Request (PDF) (14 pp, 1,003K)
- EPA-DOE -- Stakeholder Meeting Minutes/Action Items (PDF) (2 pp, 30K)
On August 30, 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) provided a proposed planned change request that will relocate Panels 9 and 10 from the main north-south access drifts to south of the existing Panels 4 and 5 in the WIPP repository. DOE states that relocating these panels will enhance worker safety and reduce maintenance requirements by providing a more stable geotechnical environment.
The Department submitted a performance assessment (PA) for the proposed repository reconfiguration as part of their documentation package. The results of the PA show that WIPP will remain in compliance with all containment requirements found in 40 CFR 191 and have only a minor effect on total normalized releases from the repository.
Complete details of the repository reconfiguration planned change request (including an overview presentation provided at an August 2011 technical meeting) can be found below:
- DOE -- Letter to EPA transmitting Repository Reconfiguration planned change request (8/30/11) (PDF) (2 pp, 254K)
- DOE -- Enclosure #1: Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Repository Reconfiguration (PDF) (14 pp, 824K)
- DOE -- Enclosure #2: Performance Assessment for Repository Reconfiguration (PDF) (59 pp, 1,610K)
- DOE -- WIPP Repository Reconfiguration: Overview (8/23/11) (PDF) (12 pp, 713K)
EPA has issued its final technical decision regarding the U.S Department of Energy’s (DOE's) shielded containers planned change request. DOE originally submitted this request on November 15, 2007, which is documented in the accompanying information below. Since that time, DOE has submitted supplemental information related to the shielded containers, most recently on December 3, 2010. This information includes all of the stakeholder concerns brought up during the public meetings held in November 2007, as well as input received during our initial informal comment period, which closed in January 2008.
The Agency opened an additional informal comment period on the shielded containers proposed decision. The comment period was originally scheduled to close after 60 days on on May 24, 2011. However, after requests from the public, EPA extended it for another 30 days. The second informal comment period for this proposed decision closed on June 23, 2011.
At this time, the EPA approves the emplacement of shielded container assemblies at WIPP -- as outlined below in the letter and attachment (response to comments) -- with one condition. Prior to shipping shielded containers to WIPP, the DOE must demonstrate a consistent complex-wide procedure to ensure that the shielded containers containing RH waste remain below the Land Withdrawal Act surface dose rate limit for CH waste of 200 millirem per hour. The procedure will be evaluated for technical adequacy as part of the Agency’s waste characterization inspection and approval process. Please note that no shielded containers may be shipped to WIPP from any RH TRU site until the EPA inspects and approves the implemented procedure. In addition, the DOE will need a separate hazardous waste permit modification from the New Mexico Environment Department to use the SCA; this approval is independent of that permit modification.
- EPA -- Letter to DOE & Response to Comments transmitting technical approval for Shielded Containers (8/8/11) (PDF) (7 pp, 838K)
- EPA -- Letter to DOE transmitting proposed decision on Shielded Containers (3/25/11) (PDF) (5 pp, 105K)
- EPA Technical Support Document - Review of DOE Planned Change Request for Shielded Containers for Remote-Handled Transuranic Waste (PDF) (80 pp, 496K)
On November 15, 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) submitted a planned change request proposing to package and emplace a portion of the Remote Handled (RH) Transuranic (TRU) Waste Inventory in shielded containers at the WIPP.
Documentation related to this change request is available below, in Adobe .pdf format. One of the documents is a fact sheet that provides the background and history of the issue, a summary of the proposed change as well as DOE’s rationale and the projected impact on WIPP performance.
- Cover Letter (PDF) (2 pp, 73K)
- Shielded Containers Change Request (PDF) (9 pp, 595K)
- Simple Analysis Report (PDF) (35pp, 5.14MB)
- Analysis Report Performance Assessment (PDF) (51 pp, 602K)
On December 7, 2007, and April 15, 2008, EPA submitted comments to DOE regarding their Shielded Containers planned change request. These comments can be viewed below in Adobe (.pdf) format:
- EPA -- Letter to DOE transmitting preliminary comments on Shielded Containers (12/7/07) (PDF) (3 pp, 101K)
- EPA -- Letter to DOE transmitting requests for additional documentation on Shielded Containers (4/15/08) (PDF) (6 pp, 215K)
EPA opened an unofficial 60-day public comment period, which closed on January 29, 2008.
UPDATED: DOE has submitted supplemental information related to their shielded containers planned change request. All of this information can be found below in Adobe .pdf format:
April 30, 2008 DOE Submission
- Cover Letter (13 pp, 259K)
- Attachment #1 -- Evaluation of Cellulosics, Plastic, and Rubber (16 pp, 936K)
- Attachment #2 -- Analysis Flow Diagram (1 p, 321K)
- Attachment #3 -- The Health Physics and Radiological Health Handbook (11 pp, 4310K)
- Attachment #4 -- Specification for the RH-TRU Drum Handling Bag (11 pp, 476K)
- Attachment #5 -- EPA-DOE E-mail Correspondence (2 pp, 13K)
- Attachment #6 -- List of Key Assumptions (Draft) (2 pp, 26K)
- Attachment #7 -- Additional Information on the TRUPACT-II Shipping Package Application (2 pp, 60K)
October 29, 2008 DOE Submission
- Cover Letter (3 pp, 74K)
- Attachment #1 -- Planned Change Request for Shielded Containers (9 pp, 594K)
- Attachment #2 -- Nuclear Criticality Safety Evaluation for CH-TRU Waste at WIPP (337 pp, 2160K)
- Attachment #3 -- Nuclear Safety Assessment of Shielded Containers in the WIPP System of Operations (348 pp, 2290K)
- Attachment #4 -- Preparation of Safety Basis Documents for TRU Waste Facilities (244 pp, 3500K)
- Attachment #5 -- Shielded Container Assembly Diagrams (5 pp, 991K)
- Attachment #6 -- Shielded Container Type A Evaluation Report (120 pp, 4820K)
- Attachment #7 -- (Paper) Shielded Payload Containers Will Enhance the Safety and Efficiency of the DOE's RH Waste Disposal Operations (10 pp, 192K)
- Attachment #8 -- (Presentation) Shielded Payload Containers Will Enhance the Safety and Efficiency of the DOE's RH Waste Disposal Operations (28 pp, 2590K)
On December 11, 2008, EPA responded with additional comments regarding DOE's submissions. These comments can be found below in Adobe .pdf format:
- EPA -- Letter to DOE transmitting additional comments on Shielded Containers (12/11/08) (PDF) (4 pp, 282K)
January 21, 2009 DOE Submission
June 10, 2009 DOE Submission
- Cover Letter -- Submittal of NRC Certification of Compliance for Shielded Containers (1 p, 270K)
- Attachment 1 -- U.S. NRC Certificate of Compliance (5 pp, 1528K)
August 27, 2009 DOE Submission
- Cover Letter -- Submittal of Nuclear Criticality Safety Analysis for Shielded Containers (1 p, 245K)
- Attachment 1 -- Summary of Nuclear Criticality Safety Evaluation (51 pp, 1247K)
March 5, 2010 DOE Submission
- Cover Letter -- Submittal of Safety Analyses in Support of Shielded Containers (1 p, 326K)
- Attachment 1 -- White Paper/Summary of Safety Impact (7 pp, 1780K)
- Attachment 2 -- Fire Analysis (28 pp, 812K)
- Attachment 3 -- Summary of Nuclear Criticality Safety Evaluation (51 pp, 4880K)
- Attachment 4 -- Safety/Accidental Analysis Calculations (45 pp, 2800K)
June 11, 2010 Submission
- EPA/DOE Comments/Responses on Shielded Container Dimensions (2 pp, 15K)
- Diagram of Shielded Container (1 p, 366K)
September 8, 2010 DOE Submission
- Cover Letter -- Additional Information (Waste Handling, MgO) in Support of Shielded Containers (2 pp, 679K)
- Attachment 1 -- Figures of Shielded Container Waste Handling Demonstration (1 p, 177K)
November 10, 2010 DOE Submission
- Cover Letter -- Additional Information (Type A Testing) in Support of Shielded Containers (1 pp, 426K)
- Attachment 1 -- Shielded Containers Completeness Comments (4 pp, 64K)
- Attachment 2 -- Shielded Container Assembly Handling and Operation Manual (16 pp, 264K)
- Attachment 3 -- Shielded Container Assembly Drawings (5 pp, 856K)
December 3, 2010 DOE Submission
- Cover Letter -- Additional Information (Revised Safety Impact Analysis) in Support of Shielded Containers (1 p, 385K)
- Attachment 1 -- Summary of a Revised Safety Impact Analysis for the Lead Shielded Container Assembly (11 p, 135K)
Section 9 of the 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act (LWA) specifies that every two years DOE must demonstrate that the WIPP facility complies with applicable Federal laws pertaining to public health and safety of the environment, including the regulations and permit requirements under such laws. This report is submitted to the EPA as the Biennial Environmental Compliance Report (BECR). Under the WIPP LWA, EPA is mandated to review the information and determine compliance or non-compliance during the reporting period.
After thorough review, EPA has concluded that, for the reporting period of April 1, 2008, through March 31, 2010, the WIPP has remained in compliance with applicable environmental Federal laws and regulations. The report itself, as well as the letter confirming compliance and accompanying Federal Register notice, are available below in Adobe .pdf format:
- Biennial Environmental Compliance Report (2008-2010) (479 p, 1,125K)
- Letter of compliance from EPA Administrator Jackson to DOE Secretary Chu (5/25/11)
- Federal Register notice announcing compliance (6/1/11)
EPA anticipates to receive the 2010-2012 BECR from DOE in November 2012 and will make a final determination sometime in the Summer of 2013.
EPA held two public meeting sessions in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Wednesday, May 12, 2010. The purpose of the meetings were to provide a forum to discuss the Agency's WIPP recertification process (specifically, completeness of the Compliance Rercertification Application [CRA]). The meetings will serve as a folllow-up to our previous meetings held in June 2009; an update on EPA comments and DOE responses related to the CRA will be given to the public. Staff from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) will also be on hand to answer any stakeholder questions/concerns. The logistics for the meeting are as follows (and detailed in the fact sheet below:
Location: Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North
5151 San Francisco Road, NE
Albuquerque, NM 87109-4641
Sessions: 1:30 - 4:30 PM
6:00 - 9:00 PM
Public Meetings -- WIPP Recertification (2009)
EPA held two public meeting sessions in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on June 30th, 2009. The purpose of the meetings were to provide a forum to discuss the Agency's recertification process and related issues or concerns from the public. Information on specific WIPP technical issues (e.g., performance assessment, waste inventory, hydrogeology, etc.), as well as details on our projected schedule & timeline for completeness and final recertification decision are anticipated to be discussed. Staff from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) will also be on hand to answer any stakeholder questions/concerns. The logistics for the meeting are as follows:
Location: Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North
5151 San Francisco Road, NE
Albuquerque, NM 87109-4641
Sessions: 1:30 - 5:00 PM
6:30 - 9:00 PM
On the morning of August 4, 2008, DOE notified EPA that during underground operations on August 3, 2008, WIPP staff noticed that a drum had a 1-2 inch gash in it. DOE believes that the drum was punctured during emplacement activities. Initial tests conducted by DOE detected no releases in the area of the drum or in the radiation monitors at WIPP. DOE has temporarily halted shipments to WIPP.
Additional tests have been done (including the entire area around the payload stacks and breached drum) through August 5, 2008, and DOE has still detected no radiation from the drum. The drum contains waste from a debris waste stream and the waste is in an inner plastic bag that apparently has not ruptured. The drum has been sealed and DOE plans to have it overpacked underground. Waste shipments will continue to be suspended until final disposition of the drum is determined.
- DOE Drum Incident Underground (PDF) (08/04/08) (1 p, 11K)
- Picture of punctured drum (JPEG, 1.48MB)
- Picture of sealed drum (JPEG, 1.45MB)
Los Alamos National Laboratory TRU waste shipments suspension lifted
On June 6, 2008, EPA was notified by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that on May 20, 2008, the Central Characterization Program (CCP) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) shipped an improperly certified non-conformant (NCR) drum (# LAS817174) of contact handled (CH) transuranic (TRU) waste containing prohibited liquids to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for disposal. According to the DOE notification, the drum was mistakenly added to a group of TRU waste drums, over packed in a standard waste box (SWB), and emplaced in the repository on May 28, 2008. As a result, EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) had mutually agreed to suspend shipments from LANL to WIPP.
EPA conducted an initial inspection at LANL on June 25, 2008, and on July 29, 2008, EPA conducted a follow-up inspection at LANL regarding the events that led to the emplacement at WIPP of the non-conformant drum. These inspections by EPA staff included the following:
- Interviews of LANL and CCP staff;
- Review of DOE and CCP documentation, including the CCP root cause analysis and corrective actions;
- Observing the CCP data center database used to screen compliant drums; and
- Visiting LANL’s transuranic (TRU) waste storage/staging area, Dome 49, where both NCRed & non-NCRed TRU drums and other drums in the waste characterization process are stored, moved around, and sent for characterization, as instructed by LANL-CCP.
Based on the documentation provided by DOE and EPA’s review of the events leading to the incorrect shipment of the drum from LANL, on July 29 EPA concurred with CBFO’s decision to resume shipment of LANL’s CH TRU waste except for most containers from the MIN-03 and CIN-02 solid waste streams. These waste streams could be shipped after EPA evaluates the CCP data center database used by LANL-CCP for screening compliant drums.
Below, you will find correspondence between EPA and DOE related to this incident.
- EPA -- Letter Regarding LANL-CCP Errant Drum (6/12/08) (PDF) (3 pp, 175K)
- DOE -- Letter Documenting Details of LANL-CCP Errant Drum (6/13/08) (PDF) (6 pp, 124K)
- EPA -- Follow-up Letter Regarding LANL-CCP Errant Drum (7/14/08) (PDF) (4 pp, 264K)
- DOE -- Response to EPA's 7/14/08 Letter Regarding LANL-CCP Errant Drum (PDF) (7/18/08) (76 pp, 3.32MB)
- EPA -- Response to DOEs 7/18/08 Letter Regarding LANL-CCP Errant Drum (PDF) (7/22/08) (2 pp, 91K)
- EPA -- Comments/Results on LANL-CCP Follow-Up Inspection (PDF) (7/30/08) (2 pp, 117K)
In addition to the letters, we received the information below from DOE related to the LANL-CCP errant drum.
- WIPP Waste Information System (WWIS): Waste Container Data Report for the drum (PDF) (5 pp, 35K)
- WWIS Waste Container Data Report for the Standard Waste Box (SWB) (PDF) (5 pp, 36K)
- Central Characterization Project (CCP) Acceptable Knowledge (AK) summary report for this waste stream (PDF) (128 pp, 903K)
Specific procedural steps:
- CCP-TP-030: 3.2.2; 4.4.11;4.5.11
- CCP-TP-120; 4.0(note)
- CCP-TP-033; 4.3.10
- Real Time Radiography (RTR) Batch Data Report (BDR) (PDF) (64 pp, 2.4MB)
- Visual Examination BDR (PDF) (69 pp, 3.2MB)
- Nonconformance Report (PDF) (6 pp, 176K)
- Lot evaluation and certification report (CIS)(PDF) (17 pp, 1.2MB)
Magnesium Oxide (MgO) -- Planned Change Request
On April 10, 2006, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) submitted a planned change request pertaining to the amount of MgO emplaced in the WIPP repository. MgO is an engineered barrier that DOE included as part of the original WIPP Certification Decision that ensures repository releases will be well-within EPA's regulatory limits.
On February 11, 2008, EPA issued it's final decision regarding the MgO Planned Change Request after reviewing all submitted information and public comments. The Agency's letter, along with supporting documentation, can be found below in Adobe .pdf format:
- EPA Final Approval Letter (PDF) (2/11/08) (2 pp, 123K)
All current documentation related to this change request is available below, in Adobe .pdf format. Included in these documents is both EPA and DOE's public fact sheets for MgO. DOE's fact sheet includes an in-depth background and history related to MgO, as well as the proposed change, rationale, and projected impact on WIPP performance. In conjunction, EPA's fact sheet describes how the public can submit comments and stay up-to-date on future developments on this issue.
- DOE -- Official Planned Change Request for MgO (PDF)(4/10/06) (12 pp, 2.78MB)
- EPA -- Letter to DOE with Preliminary Comments (PDF) (4/28/06) (2 pp, 138K)
- EPA Report -- "Preliminary Review of the Degradation of Cellulosic, Plastic, and Rubber Materials in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, and Possible Effects on Magnesium Oxide Safety Factor Calculations." (PDF) (9/15/06) (55 pp, 424K)
- DOE -- MgO Reduction Uncertainty Analysis (PDF) (11/21/06, Enclosures)
(4 pp, 293K)
- "Analysis of Martin Marietta MagChem 10 WTS-60 MgO" (PDF) (28 pp, 1.68MB)
- "Consumption of Carbon Dioxide by Precipitation of Carbonate Minerals Resulting from Dissolution of Sulfate Minerals in the Salado Formation in Response to Microbial Sulfate Reduction in the WIPP" (PDF) (100 pp, 365K)
- "Geochemical Information for Calculation of the MgO Effective Excess Factor" (PDF) (36 pp, 220K)
- "Normalized Moles of Castile Sulfate Entering the (WIPP) Repository and Fraction of MgO Lost Due to Brine Flow out of the Repository" (PDF) (20 pp, 137K)
- "Updated Analysis of Characteristic Time and Length Scales for Mixing Processes in the WIPP Repository to Reflect the CRA-2004 PABC Technical Baseline and the Impact of Super compacted Mixed Waste and Heterogeneous Waste Emplacement" (PDF) (12 pp, 81K)
- "Uncertainty in Cellulose, Plastic, and Rubber Measurements for the WIPP Inventory" (PDF) (16 pp, 285K)
- "Uncertainties Affecting MgO Effectiveness and Calculation of the MgO Effective Excess Factor, Revision 0" (PDF) (52 pp, 263K)
- DOE -- Request for Withdrawal of Brush et. al Report from MgO Uncertainty Analysis (PDF) (5/30/07) (2 pp, 55K)
EPA WIPP Project Plan
EPA has created a anticipated project plan (updated February 2008) that outlines milestones and dates for some major WIPP activities through the next calendar year. This document, as well as a more detailed description of the items included in the project plan, are available for viewing/download below (Adobe .pdf format). Please note that this is only a projected schedule; therefore, any of this information is subject to change at any time.
Idaho National Laboratory TRU waste shipments temporarily suspended
On July 17, 2007, EPA received written notification from the Department of Energy (DOE) that on June 26, the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project (AMWTP) at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) shipped a 55-gallon drum of transuranic (TRU) waste that had not been properly characterized and certified in accordance with EPA requirements to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for disposal. According to the DOE notification, the drum was mistakenly added to a group of TRU waste drums, packed, and shipped to WIPP, and, subsequently, emplaced in the repository.
DOE reports that it has reviewed the data and information it has about the contents of the drum and has concluded that the waste in the drum is well within the bounds of the repository performance assessment requirements. According to the DOE notification, the data collected on this drum provides the basis for concluding that this drum has no detrimental impact upon the repository’s performance. DOE’s Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) also concludes that this situation has not created a condition that endangers human health or the environment.
DOE reports that TRU waste shipments from INL have been temporarily suspended. EPA is working with the New Mexico Department of the Environment and DOE to evaluate the reported infractions and to implement corrective actions. EPA will continue to assess the situation at WIPP and INL-AMWTP and provide updates on actions and activities at both facilities related to this incident.
- Letter reporting incorrect waste container shipment (PDF) (3 pp, 199K)
- Enclosure with details, including root cause analysis and corrective action report (PDF) (15 pp, 430K)
On August 7, 2007, EPA conducted an inspection of AMWTP at INL in Idaho Falls, Idaho. During the inspection, EPA will verify that AMWTP has adequately implemented corrective actions to address the packaging and disposal of the uncertified TRU waste drum that recently took place. Soon after AMWTP noticed the error, AMWTP/DOE-CBFO voluntarily suspended all future shipments of TRU waste to WIPP for disposal. AMWTP developed corrective actions which CBFO approved and evaluated for implementation at AMWTP. EPA, under authority from 40 CFR 194.24(c)(4), will verify adequacy of the corrective actions implemented at AMWTP before concurring with CBFO's decision to allow the site to resume shipment of TRU waste to WIPP for disposal. EPA will provide the inspection results after completing the August 7, 2007, inspection.
U.S. DOE Documents -- Karst Report (John C. Lorenz) and Magenta Transmissivity Fact Sheet
EPA has recently received two documents from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The first is a report by John C. Lorenz of Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) that addresses the issue of Karst at the WIPP site. The second outlines DOE's investigations into Magenta Transmissivity. In response to stakeholder interest, we are posting them here for viewing/downloading purposes in Adobe .pdf format.
- Assessment for the Potential of Karst in the Rustler Formation at the WIPP Site -- John C. Lorenz (127 pp, 7,290K)
- Magenta Transmissivity Fact Sheet (7 pp, 1,810K)
Final Baseline Decision -- Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Program (AMWTP) Waste Characterization Activities at Idaho National Laboratory (INL)/Central Characterization Project (CCP)
EPA conducted a baseline inspection at INL-CCP the week of May 3, 2005. Under the newly-revised WIPP Compliance Criteria (40 CFR Part 194), the Agency announced the inspection on this web site and the WIPP-NEWS listserv. A Federal Register notice (September 9, 2005; 70 FR 53659) was also published, announcing the proposed approval of the waste characterization activities at INL-CCP. The FR notice outlined EPA's draft baseline inspection report and summarized the inspection results, findings, and proposed tiering designations. A public comment period of 45 days was also opened on the draft inspection report and proposed approval.
After evaluating all public comments, EPA has approved the disposal of TRU waste, as characterized by INL-CCP, according to the conditions outlined in our approval letter and final inspection report. EPA will evaluation additions and changes to the INL-CCP waste characterization program according to the tiering requirements established in the inspection report. To view all documents related to this action, please click on the following link for EPA's EDOCKET created for this inspection:
EPA Reaches Completeness Determination on Department of Energy's (DOE's) Compliance Recertification Application (CRA)
EPA has determined that DOE's Compliance Recertification Application for WIPP is now complete. This completeness determination is an administrative step required under the WIPP Compliance Criteria (40 CFR Part 194). This determination indicates that DOE has provided information relevant to each applicable provision of the WIPP Compliance Criteria and in sufficient detail for EPA to proceed with a full technical review of the CRA.
In accordance with our requirements under the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act (LWA), EPA will make its final recertification decision within six months of the date of its completeness determination. A Federal Register Notice documenting our decision was published on October 20, 2005. The comment period on the CRA will remain open for an additional 45 days until December 5, 2005. The letter transmitting our determination, as well as the Federal Register Notice, is posted below in Adobe .pdf format:
- EPA -- CRA Completeness Determination (9/29/05) (PDF) (3 pp, 336K)
- Federal Register Notice -- EPA Completeness Determination (10/20/05) (PDF) (4 pp, 67K)
Prior to making our completeness determination, DOE also submitted revised, summary information related to WIPP's inventory and the performance assessment (PA). EPA does not consider this information to be a completeness issue. However, since it is part of what we will be reviewing under our full technical evaluation, we are also making it available to the public:
- DOE Cover Letter -- Performance Assessment and Inventory Updates (10/19/05) (PDF) (2 pp, 329K)
- DOE -- Performance Assessment Baseline Calculation Summary Report (10/19/05) (PDF) (153 pp, 3,527K)
- DOE -- TRU Waste Inventory Report (2004 WIPP CRA; Performance Assessment Baseline Calculation) (9/29/05) PDF) (56 pp, 2,187K)
RememberSupplementary information on the these reports is also available. To request any of these files (hard copy or electronic), please send an e-mail to Ray Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Public Meetings -- WIPP Recertification
EPA recently held public meetings in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on June 7, 2005. The purpose of the meetings was to provide a forum to discuss the Agency's recertification process and related issues or concerns from the public. Information on specific WIPP technical issues (e.g., performance assessment, waste inventory, karst), as well as details on our projected schedule & timeline for completeness and final recertification decision was provided to the public. The US Department of Energy (DOE) was also on hand to provide information on its Recertification Application.
Six fact sheets were developed on a number of WIPP topics for the meetings.
These fact sheets are available below:
Idaho National Laboratories Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project Approval for Super-compacted (Compressed) Waste
EPA performed an inspection in March 2005 to examine Idaho National Laboratories (INL)/Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project's (AMWTP) ability to characterize contact-handled (CH) transuranic (TRU) debris waste and super-compacted/compressed debris waste. The Agency recently issued its approval for INL/AMWTP to characterize and dispose of this waste at WIPP. This approval is outlined in the following documents below:
- INL/AMWTP EPA Approval Letter - 5/12/05 (PDF) (3 pp, 722K)
- INL/AMWTP EPA Inspection Report - May 2005 (PDF) (111 pp, 567K)
Previously in March 2004, EPA issued an approval for the overall concept that allowed the US Department of Energy (DOE) to dispose of super-compacted/compressed waste from INL/AMWTP. However, this approval also stated that waste characterization inspections at INL/AMWTP were required prior to the disposal of any super-compacted waste at WIPP (hence, our recent March 2005 inspection). For more details on the original approval of the super-compacted/compressed waste concept, see EPA Approves DOE's Request to Dispose of Compressed Waste at WIPP below.
Final Rule -- Alternative Provisions to 40 CFR Part 194
EPA has finalized changes to the criteria used to determine whether the WIPP complies with the Agency's radioactive waste disposal standards. The final rule for this action was published in the Federal Register on July 16, 2004. An Adobe .pdf version of the rule can be found below:
Final Rule (PDF) (13 pp, 111K)
- Provide equivalent or improved oversight and better prioritization of technical issues in EPA inspections to evaluate waste characterization activities at Department of Energy WIPP waste generator sites; and
- Offer more direct public input into EPA's decisions about what waste can be disposed at WIPP.
Based on extensive oversight experience with the WIPP, and after consideration of all public comments, EPA is finalizing the following changes to the compliance criteria:
- Streamline the procedures for approving DOE's waste characterization programs, to improve technical oversight and public participation [Section 194.8(b)];
- Allow administrative changes and minor amendments to be made more efficiently in the future (Section 194.6);
- Allow electronic versions of compliance applications and reference materials (Sections 194.12 and 194.13);
- Clarify terminology related to waste characterization [Section 194.24(c)(3)]; and
- Make minor editorial changes to other sections of the Compliance Criteria (40 CFR Part 194) for consistency with the above provisions.
These updates ensure that the WIPP compliance criteria remain comprehensive and appropriate, based upon current knowledge and information. The new provisions maintain the current technical approach EPA uses during its independent inspections to evaluate a site's waste characterization capabilities, and do not lessen the requirements the Department of Energy must meet to comply with Agency's radioactive waste disposal standards.
The proposed rule, entitled "Criteria for the Certification and Recertification of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's Compliance with 40 CFR Part 191 Disposal Regulations; Alternative Provisions," was published in the Federal Register on August 9, 2002, which marked the beginning of a 120-day comment period. Public hearings were also held in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, on September 24-25, 2002. Background material supporting this final action (i.e., Technical Support Document, Response to Comments) is also available. Please refer to EPA's EDOCKET site for online .pdf versions of these documents.
EPA Approves DOE's Request to Dispose of Compressed Waste at WIPP
On March 26, 2004, EPA approved DOE’s request to allow disposal in WIPP of compressed waste from the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Facility at the Idaho National Environmental and Engineering Laboratory site. EPA’s evaluation of this request found that disposing of compressed waste in WIPP does not impact the long-term performance of the repository. As with other wastes, before allowing shipment for disposal at WIPP, EPA will conduct an on-site inspection to evaluate DOE’s ability to measure and track the contents of this type of waste.
What is Compressed TRU Waste?
This type of transuranic (TRU) radioactive waste is compressed using special equipment at the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Facility within the Idaho National Environmental and Engineering Laboratory (INEEL) site. The Department of Energy (DOE) designed this special equipment to compress standard 55-gallon drums of transuranic (TRU) waste and combine them into one waste package. Three to five of these compressed 55-gallon drums are placed in a 100-gallon shipping container that looks like a large 55-gallon drum Although more waste is concentrated into one container, a shipment of compressed waste contains less radioactivity than a comparable shipment of standard 55-gallon drums. This is accomplished by carefully managing the TRU wastes that are compressed and packaged together to meet the allowable shipping limits on radioactive containers for WIPP.
Why does DOE want to compress waste?
In December 2002, DOE requested EPA’s approval to dispose of waste from this compression process in WIPP. By using this process, DOE intends to reduce the volume of TRU waste that is to be shipped from INEEL to WIPP. By reducing the volume of waste, DOE also expects to reduce the transportation costs associated with shipping the waste to WIPP.
Is compressed waste different from the waste that already goes to WIPP?
The wastes before and after compression are classified as TRU waste, the only type of waste that is allowed to be disposed of at WIPP. Although the compressed waste is still TRU waste, some of the non-radioactive properties of the compressed waste are different than the waste in the standard 55-gallon containers. For example, although the 100-gallon compressed waste containers have no more radioactivity than a standard 55-gallon container, a compressed waste drum may contains more cellulosic, plastic, and rubber material. Because of the these differences, EPA conducted a thorough analysis of the DOE proposal requesting approval to dispose of compressed waste in WIPP.
Why did EPA decide to allow this type of waste at WIPP?
Since December 2002, EPA has been working hard to understand and evaluate the impact that compressed waste could have on the WIPP repository. EPA’s analysis shows that having compressed waste in the WIPP repository does not impact the long-term safety and performance of WIPP. WIPP can safely contain regular and compressed waste.
When will this type of waste by shipped to WIPP?
Although EPA has approved DOE’s request to dispose of compressed waste in WIPP, DOE cannot ship compressed waste until EPA conducts inspections and approves the waste characterization and quality assurance programs of the waste compression process at INEEL. These inspections are conducted at all the sites that send waste to WIPP. They ensure that DOE knows enough about the waste that is going to WIPP and that they can track the waste from shipment through emplacement in the repository.
EPA does not expect to conduct an inspection of compressed waste activities until 2005. Compressed waste cannot be shipped to WIPP until EPA conducts its inspections. EPA will announce the inspection schedule on the EPA Web site when the dates have been determined.
How much waste will be compressed?
DOE plans to compress the waste of approximately 224,374 standard 55-gallon drums into 52,440 100-gallon drums. According to DOE projections, the compressed waste will be approximately 11.8% of the total volume of contact-handled waste emplaced in WIPP.
Compressing waste containers will allow DOE to put more actual waste containers in WIPP than DOE previously stated. However, the radioactivity of all the WIPP waste containers still cannot exceed the limit set by Congress in the 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act.
Where can I get more information about compressed waste?
EPA’s letter to DOE approving the disposal of compressed waste from INEEL and EPA’s supporting technical evaluation is available at any of our docket locations.
This documentation can also be downloaded in Adobe .pdf format below:
Final Approval Letter (PDF) (4 pp, 2,980K)
Discussion of Major Issues
Regarding Compressed Waste (PDF) (11
pp, 752K) (Enclosed with letter above)
- EPA Discussion of Major Issues Regarding Compressed Waste (PDF) (11 pp, 752K) (Enclosed with letter above)
- EPA Review of Effects of Supercompacted Waste and Heterogeneous Waste Emplacement on WIPP Repository Performance (PDF) (91 pp, 2,506K)
EPA Issues Final Decision on Remote-Handled Transuranic (RH-TRU) Waste
EPA has approved the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) general framework for characterizing remote-handled (RH) transuranic (TRU) waste. After an intensive and detailed review, EPA has concluded that the RH Waste Characterization Program Implementation Plan (WCPIP) provides an adequate framework while giving waste generator sites the flexibility to develop site-specific programs for characterizing RH waste. We are issuing this decision after careful consideration of public comments, which came in response to our preliminary RH determination announced on this web site and in the WIPP Bulletin in December 2003.
This approval allows DOE to proceed with developing site-specific characterization plans for RH waste. However, this approval does not authorize DOE to characterize or ship RH waste to the WIPP. In order to obtain this authorization, DOE must first submit documentation specific to each of the waste generator sites to show the requirements in the WCPIP have been fully met. Each site must also be inspected and approved by EPA to evaluate whether it is adequately implementing the site-specific RH waste characterization programs.
EPA will make the site-specific waste characterization plans and inspection reports available in the WIPP dockets and on its web site. The web site and WIPP-NEWS e-mail service [link to WIPP-NEWS] will also announce opportunities for public comment on our waste characterization activities.
Please use the following links for more information on this decision:
- EPA Final Approval Letter (PDF) (5 pp, 3,337K)
- EPA Technical Support Document – RH Waste Determination (PDF) (87 pp, 471K)
- DOE RH Transuranic Waste Characterization Plan (PDF) (33 pp, 459K)
Waste Characterization Program Implementation Plan (PDF) (127