Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, is the world's second underground repository (after closure of the Germany's Asse Salt Mine in 1977) licensed to safely and permanently dispose of transuranic radioactive waste that is left from the research and production of nuclear weapons. It is located approximately 26-miles almost due east of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Waste is placed in rooms 2,150 feet (655 m) underground that have been excavated within a 3,000 foot (1000 m) thick salt formation (Salado and Castile Formations) that has been stable for more than 250 million years. Because salt is somewhat plastic and will flow to seal any cracks that develop, it was chosen as a host medium for the WIPP project.

Waste that is to be disposed of at the location must meet certain "waste acceptance criteria".WIPP is unsuited for high level radioactive waste as its high heat attracts water which would lead to rapid corrosion of the waste packages, and the dissolution of the waste into the salty water. The containers can also only contain a limited amount of liquids. The energy released from radioactive materials will dissociate water into hydrogen and oxygen. This could then create a potentially explosive environment inside the container. The containers must be vented, as well, to prevent this from happening.

The United States Department of Energy began planning for the facility in 1974.cite web |url= http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/la-fi-forever3may03,1,7584113.story |title= An Alert Unlike Any Other |author= Charles Piller |work= Los Angeles Times |date= 3 May 2006 |quote= BROKEN] After more than 20 years of scientific study, public input, and regulatory struggles, WIPP began operations on March 26, 1999. Disposal operations are expected to continue until 2070 with active monitoring for a further hundred years. By 2006, the facility had already processed 5,000 shipments of waste.

Because drilling or excavation in the area will be hazardous long after the area is being actively used, there are plans to construct markers to deter inadvertent human intrusion for the next ten thousand years. [ [http://www.wipp.energy.gov/library/PermanentMarkersImplementationPlan.pdf WIPP Permanent Markers Implementation Plan (2004)] ] [ [http://infoserve.sandia.gov/sand_doc/1992/921382.pdf Expert Judgment on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Sandia National Laboratories report SAND92-1382 / UC-721 (1993)] ] [ [http://downlode.org/etext/wipp/ Excerpts of SAND92-1382 in HTML format] ]

Since 1991, the United States Department of Energy has been working with a team of linguists, scientists, science fiction writers, anthropologists and futurists to come up with such a warning system. The markers, called "passive institutional controls", will include an outer perimeter of 32, 25-foot-tall granite pillars built in a four-mile square. These pillars will surround an earthen wall, 33-foot-tall and 100 feet wide. Enclosed within this wall will be another 16 granite pillars. At the center, directly above the waste site, will sit a roofless, 15-foot granite room providing more information. The team intends to etch warnings and informational messages into the granite slabs and pillars. This information will be recorded in the six official languages of the United Nations (English, Spanish, Russian, French, Chinese, Arabic) as well as the Native American Navajo language, native to the region. Pictograms are also being considered, such as stick figure images and the iconic "The Scream" from Edvard Munch's painting. Complete details about the plant will not be stored on site, instead, they would be distributed to archives and libraries around the world. The team plans to submit their final plan to the U.S. Government by around 2028. [cite journal
title=Danger! Keep Out! Do Not Enter!
journal=Science Illustrated
month=May/June
year=2008
]

See also

* Stored Waste Examination Pilot Plant

References

External links

* [http://www.wipp.energy.gov/ Official Site for WIPP]
* [http://alsos.wlu.edu/adv_rst.aspx?keyword=wipp&results=10 Annotated bibliography for WIPP from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues]


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