Precision Mining at WIPP is Routine
All tunnels that make up the WIPP underground are mined with the same precision that is exhibited in this photo. Typical drift cross sections are about 8m x 4m. Custom excavation and maintenance of openings of any configuration can be made.
In 2005, WIPP completed renovations to the 6,000 cubic meter North Experimental Area (NExA). The area, located at the northern end of the mine, was refurbished through rib trimming, floor grading, removal of loose muck, ground support and restoration of basic lighting and mine communications. As of 2010, the NExA is used for the Enriched Xenon Observatory (EXO), the Dark Matter Time Projection Chamber (DMTPC) experiment and the underground portion of the Low-Background Radiation Experiment (LBRE).
WIPP's drum miners can mine up to 875 tons/shift. With a 3.5m wide cutting head, openings 4m x 8m can be advanced at a rate of about 15m per shift. To the extent that the prime mission of waste disposal at WIPP is not compromised, the facilities and equipment can be used to lower the cost of creating customized cavities for conducting research at WIPP.
Mine operations and support infrastructure available to researchers includes: Hoist Operations, Engineering Support, Meeting Rooms, Electrical Services, Warehouse/Receiving Support, Cafeteria, Mine Rescue & Fire Protection, Surface & U/G Shops, Showers & Lockers, Ground Control & Inspection, 5-40 ton forklifts, Analytical Services (Rad + chem), Muck Removal & Disposal , IH & Waste Management Services, Guard & Security Services, Ventilation Services, Personnel Carts, U/G & Surface LAN - 10BaseT, Liquid Nitrogen, 24-Strand Fiber Optic to U/G and 3 Phase - 480VAC Power
It is worth noting that WIPP has its limitations as an experimental site. Salt dust in the air is a nuisance, though manageable. More significantly, a lack of 24-hour access and sometimes lengthy delays in the electrical interface process can make some types of experiments difficult to execute.