New Agreement Reserves WIPP Shipments for Idaho Waste

The Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has always been the driver for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  That is evidenced again by the new agreement between the State of Idaho and DOE which requires “at least 55 percent of all transuranic waste shipments received at WIPP” be from Idaho each year and that, in addition, “DOE will give INL transuranic waste priority for shipments to WIPP,” if shipments from other sites are delayed for any reason.  Since its opening in 1999, slightly more than half of all shipments to WIPP have been from Idaho, but there remains enough waste in that state for several hundred more shipments.     

Idaho’s concern is based on previous promises and agreements not being kept.  The waste stored in Idaho was shipped from the Rocky Flats Plant, near Denver, where more than 70,000 plutonium pits, or the cores of nuclear weapons, were manufactured.

Almost 50 years ago, the federal government promised Idaho that the Rocky Flats waste would begin leaving by 1980.  That did not happen.  In 1981, DOE released its first record of decision stating that all Idaho waste would be at WIPP by 1990.  That did not happen.  Idaho reached a legally binding agreement with DOE in 1995 requiring that all waste would be at WIPP by 2018. That did not happen, so now another agreement.

But, here’s the rub for New Mexico.

This summer, DOE released a draft five-year Strategic Plan for WIPP that would double the timeline for disposal operations from the scheduled closing date of 2024 to 2050.  Further, a new shaft would be needed, as well as new drifts for waste storage, which ultimately, would double the disposal area.

On September 12th, DOE held a public meeting in Santa Fe about the strategic plan.  Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen attended to learn more about DOE’s plans for the 4,000 waste drums sitting in Area G fabric tents at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  She asked about the timing for shipping the waste to WIPP.   Representatives of DOE and WIPP responded, stating WIPP’s shipments cannot be reserved.

In contrast, DOE just pledged to reserve 55 percent of WIPP shipments for Idaho waste.

Again, DOE is asking New Mexicans to do more to support the clean up of other sites around the country ahead of LANL.

Commissioner Hansen questioned why.  She stated, “Our state agencies must ensure that WIPP reserve shipments for LANL plutonium contaminated waste.”  She continued, “Why doesn’t DOE ensure LANL has priority status for any unused shipments to WIPP?  DOE must make shipments of LANL transuranic waste a priority.”

1.    GIVING TUESDAY New Mexico is Tuesday, December 3rd.Please support CCNS and the work we do to keep you informed weekly with the latest nuclear safety news, action alerts and sample public comments.  It costs money to produce the weekly CCNS News Update broadcast and social media outreach.  We would be grateful for your support!    #GivingTuesdayNM

2.    There are a number of BAD nuclear waste and consolidated interim storage facility bills moving through Congress that must be stopped.  PLEASE CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSPEOPLE TO OPPOSE THE BILLS.  These bills include:

This week, the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee passed House Bill H.R. 2699 – Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019, out of Committee.  It will go to the House floor soon.  The bill “would also authorize the U.S. Department of Energy to take ownership of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel at private, consolidated interim storage facilities (CISF).  This radical change to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as amended, would risk “interim” becoming de facto permanent surface storage, meaning loss of institutional control over time would guarantee large-scale releases of hazardous radioactivity directly into the environment.”

For more information, please check out Kevin Kamps’ Beyond Nuclear report at

3.    December 4, 2019, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, at Cities of Gold Hotel & Casino Conference Center in Pojoaque – LANL will hold a public meeting about the application they will be submitting to NMED for renewal of the Hazardous Waste Act permit.  The current permit expires in December 2020.  LANL wants NMED to continue regulating 27 hazardous waste units, as well as to add three interim status units.

4.    *** We anticipate a LANL public meeting before the end of the year as required by the 2016 NMED Consent Order.  Here’s a link to a recent posting of the Updated Fiscal Year 2020 Appendices A, B, and C to the Consent Order –,B,C_110719.pdf

*** We anticipate a LANL public meeting about the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) Industrial Discharge Permit in January.  Please stay tuned.

5.    If you appreciate our community leadership and work to keep you informed, please support CCNS with an end-of-the-year tax-deductible contribution.  Mail your check to CCNS, P. O. Box 31147, Santa Fe, NM  87594-1147, or use our e-contribution form on the right side of our home page at


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