WIPP Update

May 21, 2015

Work Begins on Interim Ventilation System

Recovery operations at the WIPP facility continue to move forward with work beginning on installation of the interim ventilation system.  This system will increase the overall amount of airflow in the underground facility from the 60,000 cubic feet per minute (CFM) available under the current configuration up to 114,000 CFM.  Following the radiological event of February 2014, all air exiting the WIPP underground passes through High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters prior to being released into the environment.  As a result, the amount of air that can be used to ventilate the underground is reduced based on the filter capacity.  The reduced airflow limits the number of workers that can be in the underground and the number of liquid fueled pieces of equipment that can be operated in the underground at any one time.  The interim ventilation system will provide additional filters and fans that will increase the overall amount of airflow in the underground facility.

IVS FoundationThe interim ventilation system includes two skid-mounted HEPA filter units and fan units that will be placed on concrete foundations and connected to ductwork that exits in the WIPP underground.  The concrete pads were poured this week and are required to cure or dry for 28 days before the skid-mounted filter units can be installed.  Once the interim ventilation system is installed, the filter units will be operated in parallel with the existing HEPA filters and fans, increasing the overall amount of airflow and allowing additional workers and equipment in the underground.

Next WIPP Town Hall Meeting Scheduled June 4

The City of Carlsbad and DOE will co-host its Town Hall meeting featuring updates on WIPP recovery activities. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 4 at 5:30 p.m. Location: Carlsbad City Council Chambers, 101 N. Halagueno Street. Live streaming of the meeting can be seen at http://new.livestream.com/rrv/.

Photo Caption: Work is complete on the installation of the concrete foundations that will support the interim ventilation system HEPA units.

Reports and Plans


AIB Phase II Report on the February 14 Radiological Event

AIB Phase II Investigation Summary Slides


AIB Investigation Report on the February 5 Fire

AIB Investigation Summary Slides

AIB Phase I Report on the February 14 Radiological Event

AIB Phase I Investigation Summary Slides

Office of Environmental Management Corrective Action Plan for Fire Event

Office of Environmental Management Corrective Action Plan for the Radiological Event

CBFO Corrective Action Plan for the Fire and Radiological Events

NWP Corrective Action Plan for the Fire and Radiological Events

Technical Assessment Team (TAT) Report

Technical Assessment Team (TAT) Report

Supporting Documents

Supporting documents for the AIB and TAT reports

About WIPP

The nation's only deep geologic repository for nuclear waste

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is a deep geologic repository for permanent disposal of a specific type of waste that is the byproduct of the nation's nuclear defense program.

CH and RH WasteWIPP is the nation's only repository for the disposal of nuclear waste known as transuranic, or TRU, waste. It consists of clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris, soil and other items contaminated with small amounts of plutonium and other man-made radioactive elements. Disposal of transuranic waste is critical to the cleanup of Cold War nuclear production sites. Waste from DOE sites around the country is sent to WIPP for permanent disposal.

TRU waste is categorized as "contact-handled" or "remote-handled" based on the amount of radiation dose measured at the surface of the waste container. Contact-handled waste has a radiation dose rate not greater than 200 millirem (mrem) per hour, while remote-handled waste can have a dose rate up to 1,000 rem per hour. About 96 percent of the waste to be disposed at WIPP is contact-handled.

TRU waste is long-lived and has to be isolated to protect public health and the environment. Deep geologic disposal in salt beds was chosen because the salt is free of flowing water, easily mined, impermeable and geologically stable. Salt rock also naturally seals fractures and closes openings.

The WIPP site, located in southeast New Mexico about 26 miles from Carlsbad, was constructed in the 1980s for disposal of defense-generated TRU waste. The underground repository is carved out of a 2,000-foot-thick salt bed formed 250 million years ago. TRU waste is disposed of 2,150-feet underground in rooms mined from the salt bed.

WIPP has been disposing of legacy TRU waste since 1999, cleaning up 22 generator sites nationwide.