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USA’s Nuclear Waste Isolation Pilot Project struggling to deal with wastes and contaminated areas

Official: WIPP deficiencies stem from lack of funds, By Rebecca Moss | The New Mexican, 7 Dec 17

      More than three years after a radiation leak forced the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to shut down, managers are still dealing with the issues of storing waste and undertaking construction in a partly contaminated mine.

A nearly $300 million new ventilation system isn’t expected to be complete by 2022, the salt-rock ceiling of one room is expected to collapse soon, and the facility is facing problems with fire-suppression systems and other infrastructure.

But at a forum Wednesday evening in Carlsbad, officials expressed enthusiasm about the work underway at WIPP.

At least 118 shipments of transuranic waste — equipment, tools, soil and gloves contaminated by plutonium and other highly radioactive materials — have been taken into the facility, at a rate of three to five shipments per week, since WIPP reopened in January, they said. This is a far slower pace than before the shutdown. The facility has averaged 800 shipments a year, or more than 15 per week, in the 15 years that it has accepted nuclear waste for long-term storage…..

Officials have prioritized a long list of infrastructure needs, Shrader said, and are asking Nuclear Waste Partnership to find ways to save money to better fund crucial projects. They also are working with New Mexico’s congressional delegation to secure more federal funding for WIPP, he said.

In July, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent adviser to the U.S. energy secretary, wrote in a monthly report on WIPP that inspectors had found deficiencies in tornado doors, fire-suppression systems that went without water for months and a number of unstable areas in the mine that workers could not access.

 “The number of impairments and the time it takes to repair items indicate that the contractor is struggling to maintain facility infrastructure,” the report said…….

December 9, 2017 - Posted by | safety, USA, wastes

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