Air system rebuild at nuclear waste site ahead of schedule

A major section of the ongoing $288 million rebuild of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s ventilation system was nearing completion, moving the project toward its goal of going into service by 2025.

WIPP’s underground airflow was restricted in 2014 after an accidental radiological release, meaning work in the nuclear waste repository was confined to either mining more space for the waste or emplacing it in disposal panels – but not at the same time.

That could put pressure on plans to time mining of the eighth panel to hold the waste with filling up the seventh.

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To increase airflow and allow the work to occur simultaneously, WIPP embarked on the project to rebuild its air system boosting available air for workers to breathe from about 170,000 cubic feet per minute (cfm) to 540,000 cfm.