Waste Characterization

WASTE CHARACTERIZATION

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is permitted for the disposal of TRU waste that is transported to WIPP by a certified transportation program using licensed packages. All TRU waste shipped to WIPP from DOE waste generator sites must be characterized by a WIPP-certified program, in compliance with WIPP’s disposal, packaging and transportation requirements, as outlined in WIPP’s waste acceptance criteria (WAC).

To demonstrate compliance with the transportation and disposal requirements, information about the physical, chemical and radiological properties and packaging of the waste must be known and verified prior to release from a DOE waste generator site. The primary basis for waste characterization is a process known as Acceptable Knowledge (AK). AK is the documentation of all known information on how a TRU waste stream was created and managed and that information is then compiled and documented.

An enhanced AK process has been implemented to meet new WAC requirements and includes chemical compatibility evaluations and a basis of knowledge document to ensure appropriate measures are taken to prevent hazard-characteristic wastes such as ignitable waste.

Confirm methods of AK waste characterization may include:

  • Radiological characterization using non-destructive assay or dose-to-curie methods
  • Visual confirmation of items using real-time radiography or visual examination methods
  • Flammable gas analysis to meet transportation requirements

Extensive tracking and DOE approvals throughout the process are in place to ensure that only waste that has been certified to meet the new WAC is shipped to WIPP. Additionally, waste stream profile forms are approved by the DOE Carlsbad Field Office’s National TRU Program and the data supporting the certification of waste is uploaded into the Waste Data System (WDS). TRU waste is tracked in WDS from characterization to shipping and disposal.

In order to ship TRU waste to WIPP, a waste generator site’s waste characterization and transportation program must be DOE-certified, with approval from the New Mexico Environment Department and an initial baseline approval from the EPA. Additional DOE and WIPP oversight is provided by waste generator site technical reviews, which examine work activities performed in preparing waste prior to entering the site’s certified program.

Central Characterization Project

DOE established the Central Characterization Project (CCP) to standardize and provide efficiencies in the characterization and certification process at DOE waste generator sites.

One of those efficiencies is the deployment of mobile loading units (MLUs) and associated teams to assist waste generator sites. MLUs contain the equipment needed to load waste containers into casks for shipment to WIPP. This eliminates the need to develop a DOE-certified loading capacity at each waste generator site.