Path Forward

WIPP Recovery Plan

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) Recovery Plan outlines the necessary steps to resume limited waste disposal operations in the first quarter of calendar year 2016.  WIPP operations were suspended following an underground truck fire and a radiological release in February 2014.  The recovery plan was issued on Sept. 30, 2014. 

Key elements of the recovery plan include strengthening safety programs, regulatory compliance, decontamination of the underground, increasing ventilation, mine stability and underground habitability, and additional workforce retraining.  Additionally, findings and recommendations from the investigations of both the truck fire and the radiological release will be incorporated into WIPP actions moving forward.

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.  The focus continues to be on the actions necessary to keep the public, environment, and employees safe; mitigate the radiation source; and restore operations.

Recovery Plan - Phase II

Accident Investigation Boards

As a result of the February events -- the February 5 salt haul truck fire and the February 14 radiological release -- the Department of Energy (DOE) established two Accident Investigation Boards (AIB) to assess the WIPP safety systems programs and processes at the federal and contractor levels.  These investigations include analysis of training and qualifications, maintenance, 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 on employees, the 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 Need (JON) that form the basis for corrective actions designed to prevent the recurrence of events.  DOE Headquarters, the Carlsbad Field Office and Nuclear Waste Partnership will develop and implement these corrective actions as part of the recovery process.

The AIB report on the haul truck fire was released March 7, 2014. 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.

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 May 30, 2014, the Department of Energy and Nuclear Waste Partnership submitted the 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.

Mine Safety and Health Administration

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) performs periodic inspections of the WIPP facility. The MSHA inspection information is available through the Mine Data Retrieval System. Instructions for accessing MSHA inspection information for WIPP are as follows:

1. Use this link to the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s website http://www.msha.gov/
2. Find “Data Transparency at MSHA" in the left hand column
3. Type in the WIPP mine number – 2901857 and hit enter or click on “go”
4. On the “Report Selection Page” choose “Inspections” to access violations and status by inspection date or “Violations” to access a list of all violations, the regulatory citations and the dates they were terminated.

Please recognize that a delay may occur between MSHA follow-up visits and when the data is updated to reflect closure or termination of a citation.


Media Contact for Recovery

Tim Runyon
U.S. Department of Energy
WIPP Recovery Communications
P.O. Box 3090
Carlsbad, NM 88221-2078 
Phone: (575) 234-7545
E-mail: Tim.Runyon@cbfo.doe.gov

Donavan Mager
Manager Communications
Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC
P.O. Box 2078 GSA-104
Carlsbad, NM 88221-2078
Phone: (575) 234-7586
E-mail: Donavan.Mager@wipp.ws

Public Inquiries

WIPP Information Center
Phone: 1-800-336-WIPP (9477)
E-mail: Infocntr@wipp.ws