The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is a facility used to store Transuranic (TRU) waste. TRU waste began accumulating in the 1940s with the beginning of the nation’s nuclear defense program. As early as the 1950s, the National Academy of Sciences recommended deep-geologic disposal of TRU wastes in stable formations, such as deep salt beds. Sound environmental practices and strict regulations require such wastes to be isolated to protect human health and the environment. For this reason the WIPP site is located in the Chihuahuan desert of New Mexico, far from major population areas.
The U.S. Department of Energy has established a system for safely transporting TRU waste to the WIPP site for permanent disposal. The waste is transported in 4 shipping containers approved for use by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). These containers consist of the TRUPACT II, TRUPACT III, HalfPACT, and the RH-72B. All containers meet NRC and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) radiation limits for public safety.
The DOT regulations require radioactive materials to be shipped on the interstate highway system unless states designate other routes. The WIPP route designated through the state of Texas encompasses over 650 miles of Texas roadways and travels through 20 counties and 40 municipal jurisdictions. WIPP shipment protocols were developed through cooperative efforts of the states, tribal governments, and the U.S. Department of Energy.
More information can be obtained through the U.S. Department of Energy Web site.