WIPP ventilation system is unsafe, needs improvements
By Sarah Matott – 7 Jan.15 – Carlsbad Argus
CARLSBAD>> Two reports about inadequate safety conditions at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant criticized the facilities contractor for insufficient information in the plans it created to control the decisions that are made during an emergency.
Both reports were conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Enterprise Assessments starting in June and focused on WIPP’s recovery plan for operating diesel equipment with restricted airflows, and on the deficiencies found in the facility’s safety maintenance assessments.
The contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, has already started to revise its plans to improve the ventilation system and further ensure the safety conditions of their workers.
Donovan Mager, communications manager at Nuclear Waste Partnership, said that improving the air filtration in the underground was already a part of the WIPP recovery plan, and that it is something that WIPP will continue to improve.
One report focused on the facilities use of diesel-powered equipment underground.
The report said that the current conditions at WIPP present a challenge for conducting safe operations with the underground diesel equipment due to the air filters currently being used, which restrict the total airflows in the underground working areas.
According to the DOE review, Nuclear Waste Partnership must resolve issues with underground ventilation to protect workers from the diesel-filled air.
Diesel fuel powers equipment at WIPP, such as generators, forklifts and machinery used for roof-bolting.
“The most significant concern is that NWP does not have a sound engineering approach for determining the minimum ventilation rates that will ensure safe conditions for underground workers,” the Office of Enterprise Assessments report said.
The second report released by the Office of Enterprise Assessments Review found that WIPP did not follow safety rules the Department of Energy had set. Among the rules not followed in 2014 was a requirement that the facility undergo safety self- assessments every three years. …more