New Mexico Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) Slated for Re-Opening Spring of 2016
Industry: Commerical Building
WIPP, the only long-term U.S. geological repository for nuclear waste, has been closed due to a radiation leak six months ago. It is likely to be re-opened in phases.
New Mexico (PRUnderground) August 29th, 2014
DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz visited WIPP August 11-12, to assess efforts toward recovery, and understanding the cause behind the radiation leaks detected in February of 2014 two weeks after a lorry caught on fire at the plant, prompting evacuation.
During a town hall addressing plant employees and attended by U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce Moniz said
“We are absolutely committed to this facility. We are, of course, committed to bringing it back to initial operations and then eventually to full operations, with safety fully in mind.”
In a recent public meeting, Joe Franco, DOE Carlsbad Field Officer, remarked “We are going to go find out, as far as the whole mine, which is about 8 or so miles of drift, where the contamination is, we are going to find out how the back is doing, the roof, the ceiling, the ribs, the walls, and then the floor.”
A recovery plan has not yet been announced, according to the federal DOE at Carlsbad Tim Runyon, but it is expected possibly as soon as this fall.
Since its closing, WIPP has instituted a series of policy changes including enhanced work planning, greater nuclear safety controls, and additional senior contractor and federal oversight.
The facility, which opened in 1999, employs more than 1,200 people directly and some 3,000 people indirectly.
According to the DOE, WIPP also has an annual budget in excess of $200 million.
Moniz said that the process of re-opening WIPP would be a long one, most likely done in phases. “Right now the major focus is on recovery–understanding and recovery,” he said. “We still have work to do, but it is happening.”
In May, a WIPP contractor proposed that cat litter used to absorb liquid in radioactive debris sent to the facility may have caused the leak in February, as cat litter’s absorbency potential varies greatly in different types.
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