On May 14, 2018, the Office of Environmental Management (EM) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced plans to move forward with a key infrastructure upgrade at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. According to the announcement, the upgrade will enable increased progress in DOE’s mission to address the environmental legacy of decades of nuclear weapons production and government-sponsored nuclear energy research.
Assistant Energy Secretary for Environmental Management Anne White approved the start of construction for the $288 million underground ventilation system. The Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS) will be key to DOE’s plans to increase shipments of transuranic waste to WIPP from cleanup sites across the DOE complex.
“This will be a significant improvement for WIPP in support of its critical role in our national mission,” said White. “I am appreciative of the unwavering support from our local, state and federal elected officials and stakeholders at WIPP who have helped to ensure we have proper funding to make infrastructure improvements, like the new ventilation system.”
According to EM, the SSCVS will significantly increase the amount of air available to the underground portion of the WIPP facility. As a result, DOE will be able to perform transuranic waste emplacement activities simultaneously with facility mining and maintenance operations. The new ventilation system will also allow for easier replacement and preventative maintenance activities. EM expects construction of the new ventilation system to be completed by early 2021.
The new ventilation system is one of a number of infrastructure projects planned for WIPP in the coming years to enable the facility to continue to play an integral role in DOE’s cleanup program. To date, more than 90,000 cubic meters of transuranic waste have been disposed of at WIPP.