DOE-EM: Team Effort Ensures Resumption Of WIPP’s TRUPACT-III Shipments

WIPPThe first Transuranic Package Transporter Model 3 cask shipped in six years recently arrived at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad. Photo Courtesy DOE-EM


The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) recently accepted its first large-box cask in six years, the culmination of a long process toward a major goal. The shipment came from the EM program at the Savannah River Site (SRS).

The Transuranic Package Transporter Model 3 (TRUPACT-III) cask allows an EM generator site to package and ship large-sized defense transuranic waste in a single box that would otherwise have to be broken down into smaller waste boxes.

Large transuranic waste includes contaminated glove boxes, used motors, and large-scale analytical equipment. The TRUPACT-III cask, just over 8 feet square and 14 feet in length, weighs about 50,000 pounds loaded and is transported on a custom designed trailer. By comparison, the workhorse TRUPACT-II weighs up to 19,250 pounds loaded.

middle.jpgA worker removes the 6,000-pound cover of a Transuranic Package Transporter Model 3 cask during a practice session at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Photo Courtesy DOE-EM

The TRUPACT-III accelerates the pace of cleanup at EM sites across the DOE complex and reduces risk to worker safety.

To get the casks back to work, though, was not a simple process. Teams at both SRS and the WIPP receiving facility were retrained and recertified for the effort. Workers ensured equipment used six years ago was in working condition.

“Implementation of new waste certification requirements and readiness performance allowed WIPP to add these standard large boxes back into the portfolio of waste packages, which can be safely shipped to WIPP for disposal,” said Mark Pearcy, chief operating officer and deputy operations manager of Nuclear Waste Partnership, the WIPP management and operations contractor.

“I’m very proud of this accomplishment, which only occurred through the teamwork of the Savanah River Site waste generator, the National TRU Program, and WIPP,” Pearcy said.

hoist house

A truck hauling the first Transuranic Package Transporter Model 3 cask shipped in six years pulls up to the front gate at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). The tower in the background, at center, houses a waste hoist that transports transuranic waste to the WIPP repository, 2,150 feet below the surface. Photo Courtesy DOE-EM

An automated transporter that the TRUPACT-III rides atop was overhauled, and workers were retrained in its use. Also repaired was the payload transfer station where large boxes are pulled from the cask and transferred to a pallet for processing.

The automated transporter carries the TRUPACT-III into a separate bay from the TRUPACT-II’s inside WIPP’s waste handling area. The cask’s multiple-bolt front end is removed and stood up in a storage rack before the box inside the cask is removed. Through the whole process, radiological control workers take readings inside and outside the cask.

The first TRUPACT-III came to WIPP in 2011, 12 years after the facility opened to take the nation’s defense transuranic waste. TRUPACT-III shipments were halted after a truck fire and unrelated radiological event in February 2014 temporarily closed WIPP.

All shipments are tracked using DOE’s Transportation Tracking and Communications satellite-based tracking and communication system. Its users have access to shipping schedules, emergency response information, and real-time positioning for each shipment.