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Waste Isolation Pilot Plant


The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, is the world's first underground repository licensed to safely and permanently dispose of transuranic radioactive waste that is left from the research and production of nuclear weapons. It is located approximately 20-miles almost due east of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Waste is placed in rooms 2,150 feet (655 m) underground that have been excavated from a 2,000 foot (600 m) thick salt formation that has been stable for more than 200 million years. Because salt is somewhat plastic and will flow to seal any cracks that develop, it was chosen as a host medium for the WIPP project.

Waste that is to be disposed of at the location must meet certain "waste acceptance criteria". WIPP is unsuited for high level radioactive waste as its high heat attracts water which would lead to rapid corrosion of the waste packages, and the dissolution of the waste into the salty water. The containers can also only contain a limited amount of liquids. The energy released from radioactive materials will dissociate water into hydrogen and oxygen. This could then create a potentially explosive environment inside the container. The containers must be vented, as well, to prevent this from happening.

Because drilling or excavation in the area will be hazardous long after the area is being actively used, there are plans to construct markers to deter inadvertent human intrusion for the next ten thousand years.

After more than 20 years of scientific study, public input, and regulatory struggles, WIPP began operations on March 26, 1999. Disposal operations are expected to continue until 2070 with active monitoring for a further hundred years. By 2006, the facility had already processed 5,000 shipments of waste.

See also


  • Expert Judgement on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Sandia National Laboratories report SAND92-1382 / UC-721 (Excerpts) - November 1993
  • Permanent Markers Implementation Plan - issued August 19 2004

Coordinates: 32°22′18″N, 103°47′37″W

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Waste_Isolation_Pilot_Plant". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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