WIPP: Abnormal event declared, no risk to workers or public

April 11, 2022, 3:02PMRadwaste Solutions
The Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, in New Mexico. (Photo: DOE)

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and Joint Information Center (JIC) were activated on April 9 following an abnormal event that occurred during routine waste handling at the Department of Energy’s WIPP repository for transuranic waste, near Carlsbad, N.M.

The event, first reported at 8:22 p.m. Saturday by the EOC and JIC, had caused the waste handling operations at WIPP to be paused and the site’s CH Bay evacuated. By 11:01 p.m., the site was declared secure, with no risk of radiological release and no risk to the public or environment. No workers were reported injured in the event and no contamination was found on personnel working in the bay.

The cause: The emergency was declared after a small amount of liquid was discovered in the bottom of a TRUPACT-II container that was found to have low-levels or radioactive contamination. The TRUPACT-II is used to ship contact-handled drums of transuranic waste to WIPP and is constructed with leak-tight inner and outer containment vessels.

While no airborne radiation monitors alarmed inside the CH Bay, all WIPP personnel were initially instructed to remain indoors. That requirement was soon lifted. There were no workers in the repository underground at the time of the emergency.

The response: Activated in response to emergency situations at WIPP, the EOC is tasked with managing the overall response, ensuring responders have the necessary equipment and resources to address the emergency. The JIC works closely with the EOC to obtain information and then uses traditional media outlets and social media to inform the public. according to the DOE.

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