Final pre-start issues identified at WIPP

09 December 2016

Operators at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) are aiming to restart waste emplacement by the end of December, the manager of the DOE's Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) said on 7 December. A DOE operational readiness review team has said the facility can be authorized to restart waste emplacement after 21 identified issues have been addressed.

The issues must be resolved and validated before waste emplacement can resume, while 15 post-start findings may be addressed concurrently with resumption of waste emplacement. The team also evaluated CBFO's capabilities to perform effective oversight.

"The team conducted a very thorough review, and the findings identify areas we need to address," CBFO manager Todd Shrader said. "We have worked very hard to get to this point, and the endorsement that WIPP can safely re-start operations after addressing the pre-starts is welcome news."

The next step in the process will be to develop corrective action plans for the findings. The DOE's contractor must then complete the actions for all of the pre-start findings and independently verify that corrective actions have been fully implemented.

The date for resumption of waste emplacement will also depend on the completion of final preparations of Panel 7, completion of ground control activities, fire protection system installations, and verification of closure of all applicable Accident Investigation Board corrective actions.

"Emplacement of the first waste from the Waste Handling Building before the end of December is still our goal, but we will take the time necessary to ensure it can be done safely," Shrader said.

WIPP, in New Mexico, is the USA's only repository for the disposal of transuranic wastes from the US military program. The wastes - clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris, soil and other items contaminated with small amounts of plutonium and other man-made radioactive elements - are sealed in drums and disposed of underground in rooms mined out of an ancient salt formation. Waste emplacement has been suspended at WIPP since February 2014, when a ruptured waste barrel resulted in a release of radioactivity.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News