As the result of the February 5 vehicle fire and the February 14 radiological release, the WIPP repository is shut down and is not accepting any waste shipments. Below are some key elements of WIPP's phased recovery plan and reports from the Department of Energy's Accident Investigation Board for both events.
Recovery Plan - Phase I
Returning WIPP to normal operations will be a long, multi-step process. Our focus continues to be on actions necessary to keep the public, environment, and employees safe, mitigate the radiation source, and restore operations.
- Isolate ventilation flow-through: Two 10-foot wide bypass dampers, that allowed limited airflow to bypass HEPA filters, were sealed with high density foam.
- Lower monitoring instruments in the salt and air intake shafts: Data from the monitors showed no radiological contamination in the area of the shafts underground and established safe habitability for personnel entries.
- Personnel re-entry teams descend into the mine: Multiple personnel entries have been completed. The initial entry consisted of two eight-person teams. The teams surveyed conditions from the Salt Shaft Station to the Air Intake Shaft Station to establish two usable egress locations— a requirement for future underground work. The teams confirmed communications (mine pager phone and regular telephone) with the above ground base station. Last, the teams established an underground base of operations and a clean area for team members to change into or remove protective suits and equipment as they enter and leave the mine.
- Personnel re-entry teams continue further into the mine: The teams continued to survey conditions of the mine while moving southward toward the suspected release location. A smaller three-person team reached Panel 7, Room 7. The exact location and cause of the radioactive contamination continues to be investigated and additional entries are planned. Once the cause is determined, plans will be refined to isolate and mitigate the source of the release.
- Replace contaminated filters: For operations to continue, a proper functioning ventilation system is required. Filters in the two filtration units are being planned for replacement
Status: New filters are on site; Replacement is pending
Recovery Plan - Phase II
- Mitigate the contamination source: Mitigation of the contamination source will be accomplished according to a plan developed from the knowledge gained during Phase I entries.
- Incorporate corrective actions: Lessons learned from the fire and radiological event are being used to enhance the programs and procedures prior to resuming normal operations.
Status: In progress throughout the recovery process.
Accident Investigation Boards
As a result of a the February events -- the February 5 salt haul truck fire and the February 14 radiological release -- the Department of Energy established two Accident Investigation Boards (AIB) to assess the WIPP safety systems programs and processes at the federal and contractor level. These investigations include analysis of training and qualifications and emergency management response to the events.
The AIBs use a rigorous process to investigate events that had or potentially could have had a negative impact to the employees, public or the environment. The DOE Carlsbad Field Office and its contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, made every aspect of WIPP operations available to the investigation teams.
The AIBs develop Judgments of Needs (JON) that form the basis for corrective actions designed to prevent the recurrence of events. The JONs form the basis for a Corrective Action Plan that DOE Headquarters, the Carlsbad Field Office and Nuclear Waste Partnership will use as part of the recovery process.
The AIB report on the haul-truck fire was released March 7. To view the report, click on the following link.
The AIB report on the February 14 radiological event is being issued in two phases. Phase I focuses on the release of radioactive material from the underground to the environment and the follow-on response to the release. The Phase I AIB Report was released April 24. To view the report, click on the following link.
- Accident Investigation Report on February 14 Radiological Event (Phase 1)
- Accident Investigation Summary Slides
The Phase 2 report will be focused on determining the direct cause of the release of the material. A release date is yet to be determined.
Other Plans and Submittals
On Friday, May 30, 2014, the Department of Energy and Nuclear Waste Partnership submitted their WIPP Nitrate Salt Bearing Waste Container Isolation Plan to the New Mexico Environment Department as required by Administrative Order 05-20001. To view this report, click on the following links:
Media Contact for Recovery
U.S. Department of Energy
WIPP Recovery Communications
P.O. Box 3090
Carlsbad, NM 88221-2078
Phone: (575) 234-7545
Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC
P.O. Box 2078 GSA-104
Carlsbad, NM 88221-2078
Phone: (575) 234-7586
WIPP Information Center
Phone: 1-800-336-WIPP (9477)