The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) disposal operations currently employ two different disposal
methods: one for Contact Handled (CH) waste and another for Remote Handled (RH) waste. CH
waste is emplaced in a variety of payload container configurations on the floor of each disposal
room. In contrast, RH waste is packaged into a single type of canister and emplaced in pre-drilled
holes in the walls of disposal rooms. Emplacement of the RH waste in the walls must proceed in
advance of CH waste emplacement and therefore poses logistical constraints, in addition to the loss
of valuable disposal capacity.
To improve operational efficiency and disposal capacity, the Department of Energy (DOE) has
proposed a shielded container for certain RH waste streams. RH waste with relatively low gammaemitting
activity would be packaged in lead-lined containers, shipped to WIPP in existing certified
transportation packages for CH waste and emplaced in WIPP among the stacks of CH waste
containers on the floor of a disposal room. RH waste with high gamma-emitting activity would
continue to be emplaced in the boreholes along the walls. The new RH container is similar to the
nominal 208-liter (55-gallon) drum, however it includes about 2.5 cm (1 in) of lead, sandwiched
between thick steel sheets. Furthermore, the top and bottom are made of thick plate steel to
strengthening the package to meet transportation requirements. This robust configuration provides
an overpack for materials that otherwise would be RH waste.
This paper describes the container and the regulatory approach used to meet the requirements
imposed by regulations that apply to WIPP. This includes a Performance Assessment used to
evaluate WIPP’s long-term performance and the DOE’s approach to gain approval for the
transportation of shielded containers. This paper also describes estimates of the DOE’s RH
transuranic waste inventory that may be packaged and emplaced in shielded containers. Finally, the
paper includes a discussion of how the DOE proposes to track the waste packaged into shielded
containers against the RH waste inventory and how this will comply with the regulated volume.