Conference Proceedings Paper
WIPP PREPARATIONS FOR RESTART OF OPERATIONS IN LATE 2016
3rd Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Decommissioning and Environmental Restoration - 2016 Sept. 11-14
T. Shrader (US Department of Energy)
S. Dunagan (US Department of Energy)
After more than 14 years of successful operation the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico experienced two unrelated events that halted operations temporarily. These were operational mishaps, accidents, and had no bearing on the suitability of the WIPP geology or on deep geologic disposal. The WIPP repository permanently isolates defense-origin transuranic (TRU) waste and TRU mixed waste (TRU with a hazardous waste component) from the biosphere by placing it 655 meters below the ground surface into a bedded salt formation that has been stable for ~250 million years. The two unrelated mishaps were a truck fire, and an independednt release from a waste drum mistakenly loaded with chemically incompatible materials that underwent a runaway reaction that produced heat and gas causing radioactive aerosol materials to be spewed into the underground, some very small fraction of which became detectable on the surface. Thorough investigations were done to determine root causes and to recommend corrective actions. The truck fire issue and the release issue had common elements in terms of identifying physical system and safety culture improvement needs. Before the repository can again operate it must (1) Enhance the ventilation system; (2) Upgrade the fire protection system; (3) Assure a habitable work environment, which includes improving both the radiological work environment and re-establishing mine stability; (4) Enhance emergency response and communications capability, and (5) Assure readiness to resume operations (physical systems and worker-qualification and safety-culture readiness). The repository is undergoing readiness reviews at this time, involving external expert reviews of both documentation and operational exercises. WIPP expects to again dispose of waste late in 2016.
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