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WIPP Enters Homestretch Toward Waste Disposal Milestone

Personnel handling waste undergound in Room 1
Underground waste handling personnel pause to view stacks of transuranic waste in Room 1, the last disposal cell to be filled before Panel 7 is completely full.

One more room to go.

WIPP moved a step closer to completing a milestone when employees began filling the last disposal room in Panel 7 in the underground repository with transuranic waste.

Crews carefully began stacking waste containers in Panel 7’s Room 1. Once filled, Panel 7 can be sealed, and waste emplacement activities will be moved to the newly mined Panel 8.

Carved from a thick layer of salt, each disposal room measures 33 feet wide, 13 feet high and 300 feet long, the length of a football field minus the endzones. The seven rooms in each panel are filled from the back, where Room 7 is located, to the front, where Room 1 is located. Creating a panel requires mining nearly 160,000 tons of salt.

Room 1 is scheduled to be filled in late summer or early fall. Panel 7 will then be sealed, and waste emplacement will move to Panel 8. That panel was completed late last year and is being outfitted with power, lighting, air monitors and chain link to capture any rock that falls off from the ceiling and walls.

The closure of Panel 7 will include standing up two metal bulkheads and adding 100 feet of salt from floor to ceiling. Bulkheads are used to control airflow through air circuits in the facility’s underground, 2,150 feet beneath the surface. Bulkheads are assembled in an underground fabrication shop from material transported from the surface. Foam is used to close gaps between the bulkhead and the walls.