Status of the Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

T-RCED-88-63: Published: Sep 13, 1988. Publicly Released: Sep 13, 1988.

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GAO discussed the Department of Energy's (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) storage facility for transuranic (TRU) nuclear waste. GAO found that DOE needs to: (1) address brine seepage problems at the facility; (2) develop a plan that provides technical justification for storing TRU wastes underground; (3) ensure that the facility will comply with revised Environmental Protection Agency disposal standards; and (4) obtain the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) certification that the type of containers it plans to use for transporting TRU wastes meets NRC standards. GAO also found that DOE: (1) reduced the quantity of wastes that it plans to store at WIPP; (2) changed its planned date to receive TRU wastes from October 1988 to the first quarter of 1989; and (3) plans to conduct a long-term environmental impact study to determine the suitability of the facility for permanent waste storage. GAO believes that Congress may wish to consider: (1) allowing DOE to conduct underground experiments using TRU wastes; and (2) postponing land withdrawal legislation pending a demonstration that the facility meets federal waste disposal standards.

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