WIPP Notes Need for Infrastructure Upgrades

DOE hopes to ramp up shipments of nuclear waste to NM repository

BY: ADRIAN HEDDEN | abqjournal.com


Officials from the U.S. Department of Energy are hoping to ramp up shipments of nuclear waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad to about 17 per week by 2023. The facility is currently accepting about 10 per week. To meet the goal of increasing shipments, Acting Manager of the DOE’s Carlsbad Field Office Greg Sosson said numerous ongoing infrastructure upgrades at the facility were needed.

“Infrastructure ages. We understand we have a lot more waste stream we’re going to tackle,” Sosson said. “These are really good projects to make sure WIPP is sustainable in the future so we can perform our important mission.”

Sosson, at Monday’s annual WIPP Legislative Breakfast in Santa Fe, said officials plan on WIPP accepting up to 350 shipments of transuranic nuclear waste in the next year from numerous DOE facilities, including 80 from Los Alamos National Laboratory and 195 from Idaho National Laboratory.

But to continue to accept waste at an increasing pace, Sosson said the facility must solve its airflow problem.

Currently, the WIPP underground space where waste is permanently emplaced offers about 170,000 cubic feet per minute of clean air for workers.

A rebuild of the facility’s ventilation system costing about $300 million would increase airflow at WIPP to 540,000 CFM, allowing waste emplacement and mining work to occur simultaneously.

WIPP’s airflow was reduced after an accidental radiological release in 2014 left portions of the underground contaminated and caused the facility to close for three years.


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