WAVERLY – Nebraska Emergency Management Agency officials announced Monday afternoon that Cass County will host a waste isolation pilot plant (WIPP) road show later this month.
The event will take place at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22, at the Waverly weigh station on westbound Interstate 80. The weigh station is located at mile marker 415 on I-80 and is on the western edge of Cass County.
The United States Department of Energy is hosting the road show in preparation for the resumption of shipments of transuranic (TRU) waste. The shipments will run from Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago to the Department of Energy’s WIPP location near Carlsbad, N.M.
WIPP road shows will be conducted the week of Aug. 19 at locations in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. They are free and open to the public and are intended to provide local elected officials and first responders with opportunities to view trucks, trailers and shipping packages. They are also meant to help Cass County residents learn about WIPP transportation protocols designed to ensure the safe transport of TRU waste.
Nebraska will host four WIPP shows Aug. 22-23. The Cass County event will kick off the two-day swing through the state. Sessions will also take place at the Nebraska State Patrol Training Center in Grand Island at 3 p.m. Aug. 22, the North Platte Weigh Station on westbound I-80 at 9 a.m. Aug. 23 and the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s District Maintenance Yard in Kimball at 3 p.m. Aug. 23.
Department of Energy representatives will be available to answer questions from the public at the Waverly weigh station. State and local emergency response personnel, inspectors from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and WIPP truck drivers will also be at the site.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said transuranic waste is metal contaminated with elements such as neptunium, plutonium and americium. TRU waste is primarily produced from recycling spent fuel or using plutonium to create nuclear weapons. Nebraska state officials have authorized the transportation of TRU waste only along Interstate 80.
WIPP is the nation’s first deep-geologic repository for safely storing TRU waste that is the byproduct of nuclear weapons research and production. The New Mexico WIPP location is designed to protect both people and the environment by storing hazardous materials underground.
The Department of Energy began transporting shipments of TRU waste to the New Mexico facility in 1999. The agency has transported more than 12,000 shipments of TRU waste during that time. Trucks have accumulated more than 14 million loaded miles in the past 19 years.
The WIPP program uses special containers certified by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Department of Energy has maintained close coordination and planning ties with local entities such as the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. It has also imposed strict driver qualifications and inspection requirements for trucks, trailers and packages.
The Department of Energy suspended TRU waste shipments to the WIPP location in February 2014 when two incidents caused the temporary closure of the underground repository. WIPP officially reopened in January 2017. Shipments from TRU waste generator sites across the department’s complex resumed in April 2017. Shipments from the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois are expected to resume this fall.