WIPP Update

July 29, 2014

Shaft inspections performed weekly

In accordance with Mine Safety and Health Administration requirements, WIPP employees continue to perform inspections of the mine shafts.  Shaft inspections are required on a weekly basis and prior to allowing personnel to ride the conveyances, or elevators, into the underground facility.  Currently, both the Salt Handling and Air Intake Shafts are inspected every Monday.  Once the Waste Shaft is returned to service it will be added to the weekly inspection schedule.  In addition to the weekly inspections, crews also perform checks of the equipment on a daily basis to ensure the continued safety of personnel being transported to the underground facility. 

During the inspection process, workers position themselves on the conveyance and slowly descend into the underground mine.  During the descent, steel ropes, vertical guides and various other moving parts that are attached to the conveyance are inspected for any signs of wear and replaced if necessary.  Preventive maintenance, such as lubrication, is also done on a weekly basis to help reduce wear.  Individuals performing these inspections are trained to evaluate the overall condition of the shaft and associated functional equipment.  Weekly shaft inspections and maintenance are just one of the activities necessary to prepare for the resumption of daily entries into the underground facility.


Community meetings scheduled
August 7 – The City of Carlsbad and DOE will co-host a Town Hall meeting featuring updates on WIPP recovery activities. The meeting is scheduled Thursday, August 7 at 5:30 p.m. Location: Carlsbad City Council Chambers, 101 N. Halagueno Street. Live streaming of the meetings can be seen at http://new.livestream.com/rrv/.

Work continues to obtain video footage in Room 7

In an effort to gather additional information on the waste containers located in Panel 7, Room 7, WIPP is planning a 90 foot adjustable boom as seen in the above graphic.

To date, visual inspection of the room's 24 rows of waste containers has been limited to rows 15 to 24. The system will allow recovery teams to examine the waste containers in rows 1 -14, those that are the furthest back in the room.

Did you know?

WIPP is the only federal repository for the nation's transuranic (or TRU) waste. Since beginning operations in 1999, WIPP has cleaned up legacy TRU waste from 22 Department of Energy generator sites.

For more information about WIPP, see our Fact Sheets.

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.