WIPP Update

April 23, 2015

WIPP mine rescue team members train in smoke filled environment

WIPP mine rescue teams recently participated in an onsite rescue drill that tested their ability to perform emergency operations in a smoke filled environment. Donning respiratory masks and oxygen tanks, team members entered a simulated smoke filled room and practiced emergency response procedures and actions that prepare them should a fire occur in the WIPP underground.

In a facility like WIPP, rescue teams must be prepared to handle underground fires. During the February 5, 2014 salt truck fire, mine rescue team members were the first to enter the WIPP underground.

There are two mine rescue teams on the WIPP site and team members serve on a voluntary basis, in addition to their regular jobs. The teams are trained and prepared to perform emergency response in the WIPP underground and through local agreements, are also available to assist with response activities at local potash mines in the region. WIPP teams hone their skills through national competitions with mine rescue teams from across the mining industry. In 2014 the WIPP Red Mine Rescue team competed against 41 teams from across the country to win the 2014 Metal Non-Metal National Mine Rescue Competition.

Pictured above: WIPP mine rescue team members practice emergency response activities in a simulated smoke-filled environment.

Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board to hold WIPP Public Hearing

On Wednesday, April 29, 2015 the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board will hold a public hearing on safety during the WIPP recovery and resumption of operations.  The meeting will consist of four separate sessions, beginning at noon and will be held at the Walter Gerrells Performing Arts and Exhibition Center, 4012 National Parks Highway, Carlsbad, New Mexico 88220.  Additional details on the meeting can be found at http://www.dnfsb.gov/.

Department of Energy to host Los Alamos Town Hall Meeting April 23

The Department of Energy will host a Town Hall meeting to discuss the Accident Investigation Board (AIB) findings from the Feb. 14, 2014, drum breach at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Members of the AIB and the Technical Assessment Team (TAT) will be on-hand to present the findings and answer questions.

The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the Fuller Lodge, 2123 Central Ave in Los Alamos. The Los Alamos meeting will be audio-streamed live on the KRSN website at http://www.krsnam1490.com. Questions from listeners can be emailed to toni.chiri@nnsa.doe.gov.

This meeting is the second of two public meetings following the AIB’s release of its Phase II Report on the WIPP event. The report is available at http://energy.gov/em/waste-isolation-pilot-plant-wipp-recovery


Reports and Plans


AIB Phase II Report on the February 14 Radiological Event

AIB Phase II Investigation Summary Slides


AIB Investigation Report on the February 5 Fire

AIB Investigation Summary Slides

AIB Phase I Report on the February 14 Radiological Event

AIB Phase I Investigation Summary Slides

Office of Environmental Management Corrective Action Plan for Fire Event

Office of Environmental Management Corrective Action Plan for the Radiological Event

CBFO Corrective Action Plan for the Fire and Radiological Events

NWP Corrective Action Plan for the Fire and Radiological Events

Technical Assessment Team Report

Did you know?

WIPP has made significant progress in its recovery efforts

On September 30, 2014, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) Recovery Plan was issued. It outlines the necessary steps to resume limited waste disposal operations in the first quarter of calendar year 2016. 

Several of the steps have been completed and WIPP is making good progress in its recovery efforts.

For more information about the WIPP Recovery Plan, see the Path Forward page.

About WIPP

The nation's only deep geologic repository for nuclear waste

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is a deep geologic repository for permanent disposal of a specific type of waste that is the byproduct of the nation's nuclear defense program.

CH and RH WasteWIPP is the nation's only repository for the disposal of nuclear waste known as transuranic, or TRU, waste. It consists of clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris, soil and other items contaminated with small amounts of plutonium and other man-made radioactive elements. Disposal of transuranic waste is critical to the cleanup of Cold War nuclear production sites. Waste from DOE sites around the country is sent to WIPP for permanent disposal.

TRU waste is categorized as "contact-handled" or "remote-handled" based on the amount of radiation dose measured at the surface of the waste container. Contact-handled waste has a radiation dose rate not greater than 200 millirem (mrem) per hour, while remote-handled waste can have a dose rate up to 1,000 rem per hour. About 96 percent of the waste to be disposed at WIPP is contact-handled.

TRU waste is long-lived and has to be isolated to protect public health and the environment. Deep geologic disposal in salt beds was chosen because the salt is free of flowing water, easily mined, impermeable and geologically stable. Salt rock also naturally seals fractures and closes openings.

The WIPP site, located in southeast New Mexico about 26 miles from Carlsbad, was constructed in the 1980s for disposal of defense-generated TRU waste. The underground repository is carved out of a 2,000-foot-thick salt bed formed 250 million years ago. TRU waste is disposed of 2,150-feet underground in rooms mined from the salt bed.

WIPP has been disposing of legacy TRU waste since 1999, cleaning up 22 generator sites nationwide.