American Society of Civil Engineers

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant as a Case Study for the Deployment of a National Repository Program

by Jennifer Biedscheid, (Senior Engineer, Washington TRU Solutions LLC, 6100 Seagull Lane NE, Suite 202; Albuquerque, NM 87109. E-mail: and Murthy Devarakonda, (Senior Advisor, Washington TRU Solutions LLC, 6100 Seagull Lane NE, Suite 202; Albuquerque, NM 87109. E-mail:

Practice Periodical of Hazardous, Toxic, and Radioactive Waste Management, Vol. 9, No. 1, January 2005, pp. 45-58, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: The permanent disposal of nuclear wastes, such as transuranic (TRU) wastes, high-level wastes, and spent nuclear fuel, that require isolation over thousands of years (due to the presence of long-lived radionuclides and high activity), is a complex and contentious issue. Stakeholders that are active and dedicated participants in the debate represent a wide spectrum of divergent viewpoints, but maintain the same desired end goal of disposition of radioactive waste that is protective of the health and safety of the public and the environment and compliant with governing regulations. The dynamics and interactions among these stakeholders are important elements in determining the end state and conditions of any radioactive waste management or disposal program. In the United States, deep geologic disposal is the preferred option for the permanent disposal of these wastes, with the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for the permanent disposal of defense-related TRU wastes being a successful operational facility for the past five years. The WIPP program provides a case study for future repository programs in the United States and in other countries, and highlights the need to achieve a ”threshold stakeholder level of comfort” that addresses technical, political, economic, and societal issues in realizing the legitimacy of a repository program.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Waste disposal
Waste management
Radioactive wastes