The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), managed by the Carlsbad Field Office, is the world's first underground repository licensed to safely and permanently dispose of transuranic radioactive waste left from the research and production of nuclear weapons. After more than 20 years of scientific study, public input, and regulatory struggles, WIPP began operations on March 26, 1999.
Located in the remote Chihuahuan Desert of Southeastern New Mexico, project facilities include disposal rooms mined 2,150 feet underground in a 2,000-foot thick salt formation that has been stable for more than 200 million years. Transuranic waste is currently stored at 23 locations nationwide. Over WIPP’s life-cycle, it is expected to receive about 37,000 shipments.
The Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management’s(OCRWM)Yucca Mountain is a 1,200-foot-high, flat-topped volcanic ridge in Nye County, Nevada, that the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Congress and President George Bush have recommended be considered as the nation’s first repository for high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. Yucca Mountain is comprised of “tuff,” a rock made from compacted volcanic ash formed approximately 13 million years ago. If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approves OCRWM’s license application for construction and operation of a repository at Yucca Mountain, the repository would be built approximately 1,000 feet below the land surface and 1,000 feet above the water table.