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Background Information

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wippaerialview-s.jpg (23800 bytes) "WIPP" is the acronym for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a DOE facility located in southeastern New Mexico, 42 km east of Carlsbad. The site chosen for the 650-meter-deep WIPP is a 41 km2 tract of federal land that consists of a 600-meter-thick layer of rock salt deposited about 250 million years ago under an overlying 300-meter-thick layer of crustally typical siliceous rock.

Congress authorized the development of WIPP in 1980 to demonstrate the safe disposal of radioactive waste resulting from defense programs of the United States. Today, WIPP is the US repository for radioactive transuranic (TRU) waste, and the world's first licensed deep geologic nuclear waste disposal operation.

However, the same attributes that made WIPP an ideal setting for a permanent TRU waste disposal facility also offer unique qualities that make it attractive for a variety of research opportunities unrelated to radioactive waste disposal.  In the autumn of 1999, DOE decided to make the underground reaches of the mine available for this purpose.

With significant interest indicated by the nuclear and particle astrophysics community in siting experiments in WIPP, DOE is sponsoring a workshop to allow researchers an opportunity to discuss the process by which WIPP could become the next generation undergound laboratory in the US.

It is important to note that there are many other major research laboratories (LANL, SNL, NRAO), and research universitites (NM Tech, UNM, NMState) in New Mexico.  Also, there are several leading particle/astrophysics projects in New Mexico (the Sloan Digital Sky Survey is at the Apache Point Observatory, Milagro is at LANL, the VLA and VLBI array are based in Socorro, NASA's national balloon launch facility is near Ft. Sumner and nearby Palestine, Texas, and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology is leading a new consortium to build the Magdelena Ridge Observatory also near Socorro).  A next generation underground laboratory at WIPP would complement the science-based efforts already being conducted.