Nuclear Engineering ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 2-13-2017


The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is a deep underground facility for the disposal of Transuranic Defense Waste located in Southeastern New Mexico. Transuranic (TRU) Waste is defined as any radionuclides with an atomic number greater than that of Uranium, has a half-life greater than 20 years, and activity greater than 100nanocuries. According to the ‘Land Withdrawal Act’ (LWA), WIPP is licensed to dispose of 6.2million cubic feet of waste. TRU waste is categorized into two types: Contact Handled (CH) and Remote Handled (RH). CH waste is any waste that does not have a surface dose rate that exceeds 200mrem per hour; while RH waste is defined as any waste with a surface dose rate greater than 200mrem per hour. WIPP’s current emplacement process for disposing of CH waste is to stack in rows along the floor of the underground panel drift. RH waste is emplaced by the borehole method in the ribs (walls) of the mine via a Horizontal Emplacement Machine (HEM). The primary dilemma presented by the emplacement rates between CH and RH waste is the inefficiency with meeting the Volume of Record specified in the LWA. WIPP is allowed to dispose of 6.2 million CF of TRU waste. The facility is progressing through the disposal panels in the Underground (UG) at a rate in which available real estate for disposal will be filled before the Volume of Record is reached; and in doing so, disrupting the process for shipping hazardous TRU waste off of the generator sites throughout the Department of Energy (DOE) and into a permanent location for long term disposal. An investigation will be conducted into a more efficient method for disposing of the RH waste from around the DOE Complex with the intent of dedicating a single panel to strictly RH waste. The concept will allow for the better utilization of RH real estate in the UG assisting the solution to meeting the Volume of Record.


WIPP, Waste, RH, Disposal, Underground, Radiological


Department of Energy

Document Type




Degree Name

Nuclear Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Nuclear Engineering

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Cassiano De Oliviera

Second Committee Member

Dr. Patrick McDaniel

Third Committee Member

Dr. Youho Lee