WIPP prepares to bring new ventilation system on line

November 27, 2023, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Electrical circuits are tested during the commissioning of the new ventilation system at WIPP. (Photo: DOE)

Commissioning has begun on a new large-scale ventilation system at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

The Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS) is expected to increase underground airflow from 170,000 cubic feet per minute up to 540,000 cfm. The increased airflow will allow for simultaneous underground waste emplacement, mining, and ground control work. Ground control, including bolting, controls the movement of salt rock—known as salt creep—in the WIPP underground.

WIPP utility shaft reaches station depth milestone

July 14, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

A truck hauls excavated salt away from the WIPP utility shaft project, marked by a large aboveground steel headframe. The shaft has reached the depth necessary to allow horizontal tunneling work to begin, which will connect the shaft to the WIPP underground repository complex. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Carlsbad Field Office announced that it has made a significant step toward increasing airflow to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) underground with the excavation of a new utility shaft. According to the office, crews working on the shaft recently reached an underground depth, known as station depth, that will allow horizontal tunneling work to begin on connecting the shaft to the WIPP repository complex.

Located in southeastern New Mexico, the repository for defense-related transuranic waste sits 2,150 feet below ground level. Airflow to the underground has been restricted following a radiological release in 2014.

When completed, the 26-foot-diameter utility shaft will provide air to WIPP’s new ventilation system, called the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS). The increased airflow provided by the system will allow for simultaneous mining, rock bolting, waste emplacement, and maintenance operations.

GAO report: WIPP projects continue to be at risk

March 17, 2022, 6:54AMRadwaste Solutions
Workers construct a new ventilation system's filter building last year at WIPP. (Photo: DOE)

Without a plan for addressing issues in completing construction projects at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, the Department of Energy cannot ensure that further cost increases and schedule delays will not continue, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. In particular, the GAO said, the DOE has not developed a corrective action plan to address root causes identified for the rising cost and the delay in building a new ventilation system at the transuranic waste repository.