2007-2008 Supercomputing Challenge New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge


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    Team Number: 023

    School Name: Cuba High School

    Area of Science: Environmental Science

    Project Title: The Containing of Nuclear Waste At The WIPP Site.

Final Report

Our group's objective is to determine what compounds in the salt beds at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant could contain the expansion of nuclear waste. After finding more information about the WIPP site, we discovered that it is not a chemical property, but is a physical property that intercepted the waste from leakage. The National Academy of Sciences first recognized that the natural salt deposits were a desirable host for disposal of radioactive waste. There are many advantages in salt desposal; all though one of the primary advantages of salt deposits is the permanent disposal of such waste is creep closure of the disposal rooms which will eventually encapsulate the waste. As is commonly, know radiation is energy in the form of protons or high-speed atomic particles or electromagnetic waves. Therefore, radiation such as gamma radiation, never goes up, and can travel through practically all metal, (http://www.wipp.carlsbad.nm.us/fctsheet/salt.htm). There happens to be many reasons for disposal in salt. The majority of salt deposits are found in stable geological areas. These areas have very little earthquake activity, assuring the stableness of a waste basin. The geological formations consist of sodium chloride rock. Salt deposits demonstrate the absence of flowing water that could move the waste to the surface. If water had been present, then it would have dissolved the salt beds. Salt is relativity easy to mine, another principal reason for waste disposal at WIPP. Salt formations that will gradually and progressively advance that to fill mined areas and safely move radioactive waste from the environment. Scientists anticipate that the salt mines will remain stable for a comparatively quart million years, (http://www.wipp.carlsbad.nm.us/fctsheet/salt.htm). Radioactive wastes are grouped in four different categories: high-level waste, transuric waste, low level waste, and uranium mill tailings. Radiation has atoms with tremendous amounts of energy. Radioactive waste has been accumulating since the dawn of the nuclear age five decades ago, (William, 46). Transuranic waste consists particularly of Alpha particles. An Alpha particle is the nucleus of a helium atom, containing two neutrons and two protons, this producing the particle to be positively charged. Alpha particles are the most unprogressive moving particles. That means that Alpha particles can be effortlessly suppressed, (http://www.wipp.carlsbad.nm.us/fctsheet/salt.htm).

Transurnic waste consists of radioactivity materials and is accompanied alongside atomic masses greater then that of uranium, such as plutonium. Transurnic waste to be disposed of at the WIPP attained is due to the department's nuclear weapons programs, (Douglis, 63). Future generations will have to be warned about the waste at WIPP. The Passive Institutional Controls are manufacturing methods designed to familiarize and inform these future generations about the location, and the purpose of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The U.S. (EPA) regulations require that the waste disposal sites use markers to indicate the dangers and locations of the waste. Federal law requires nuclear-waste specialists to make or show warning systems, which will admonish future generations of what is being stored there. The waste will be located 2150 feet below the earth's surface in an ancient bedded salt formation. The WIPP site occupies 16 square miles in the southeastern New Mexico, 26 miles east of the city of Carlsbad, (http://www.wipp.carlsbad.nm.us/cao.htm).

High-levels of radiation are a risk to living organisms and can cause serious health dilemmas. Although there is radiation in our everyday life such as sunlight, soil, cosmic rays, color TV's, smoke detectors, medical x-rays, and airplane travel. Whereas this radiation does not influence us as substantially as high levels of radiation would. More than eighty percent of the radiation that we acquire will come form natural sources. Background radiation varies on your location; the thinner atmosphere at higher altitudes will permit more radiation from space to permeate. The biological affects of rapid radiation delivery can cause cell death and are apparent within days, weeks, and years. Large doses of exposure to radiation cause cells to be irreparable; as a result, they will be contaminated or dead for the rest of the organism's life span, (http://www.wipp.carlsbad.nm.us/fctsheet/radiation.htm).

" The gravity of radioactive waste is a threat to health, is such that after our grandest building tumbles. Our literature turns into lessons a dead language, and the very name of our country is lost to all but scholars. Nuclear waste will still have the power to cause genetic mutations and to kill," (Douglis, 63)


To complete this project we have researched on Transucin waste at the WIPP site. We will be writing a program on how the salt at the WIPP site is containing the waste. We will test our WIPP salt for alpha particles using a Geiger counter. We propose to make diagrams to demonstrate the amount of alpha particles in the salt. These diagrams will show how many alpha particles are getting through the salt. We also propose to make diagrams that demonstrate waste disposal.


We retrieved information on the WIPP site, and their methods to contain the waste. They will embody the waste in salt beds 2150 feet below the earth's surface. After, so many years creep closer will encapsulate the salt. After finding more information about the WIPP site, we discovered that it is not a chemical property, but is a physical property that intercepted the waste from leakage.


We would like to take this time and thank many people who have helped us during our project. Without their help and support, we would have not been able to complete this project. We would like to grant a special thanks to Ms. Dryzmalski for being there for us every step of the way. We also give acknowledgment to Mrs. Nicolas our librarian, Mr. Haynes a science teacher at our school who we also like to think as our mentor, and Mr. Suazo our sponsor who assisted us to find research. Finally, yet importantly we would like to acknowledge Mr. Mondragon because he let us use the computer lab whenever we needed it.


" About Radiation" Online Available: http://www.wipp.carlsbad.nm.us/cao.htm

Bates Robert L. Salt of the Earth. Department of Geology & Mineralogy

Carole Douglis. STONE SENTRY. SIRS Science Omni November 1985

Gallant A. Roy The ABC's of Chemistry The Illustrated Dictionary

Hancock Don WIPP Woes Due to Doe, Not State. Albuquerque Journal. 3 Dec. 1999. William Sweet The Nuclear Age Congressional Quarterly Inc.

"WIPP Fact Sheet" Online Available: http://www.wipp. Carlsbad.nm.us/fctsheet/salt.htm 20 Oct 1999.

"Radiation is our Friend" Online Available: http://www.nuclearactive.com/

"The Department of Energy" Online Available: http://www.home.doe.gov/people/people.htm

Team Members

Team Mail

Sponsoring Teachers

Project Advisor(s)

  • Denise Drzymalski
  • Alvin Suazo
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