Morning Briefing - March 27, 2018
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March 27, 2018

WIPP Prioritizes Ventilation, Replacing Aging Infrastructure Priorities in Budget Request

By ExchangeMonitor

The U.S. Energy Department is prioritizing installing a new permanent ventilation system and replacing aging infrastructure at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in New Mexico, according to the newly released fiscal 2019 budget justification document for the Office of Environmental Management.

The WIPP budget request for the budget year starting Oct. 1 includes $84 million for the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System. The ventilation project received $86 million in the final 2018 budget. The total cost of the project is to be determined, according to the document.

The federal agency is seeking $1 million for installing a new exhaust shaft at WIPP. The exhaust shaft received an estimated $20 million in the final fiscal 2018 budget. The design for the ventilation system was completed in fiscal 2017 – as was the design for the exhaust shaft, according to the fiscal 2019 budget document.

The new ventilation system and exhaust shaft are intended to dramatically increase underground airflow at the nation’s only underground repository for transuranic defense waste. The system would increase airflow to 540,000 cubic feet per minute, more than three times the current level, allowing WIPP to conduct simultaneous mining and waste emplacement.

Since a fire and underground radiation release in February 2014 forced WIPP offline for almost three years, DOE has focused on re-establishing a safe working environment and resuming waste disposal.

Now, however, WIPP is also eyeing upgrading or replacing old equipment – including electric substations, a fire suppression system, and other infrastructure that has operated “beyond its life-cycle design in harsh environmental conditions,” including salt dust and high heat and humidity, DOE said in the document.

The fiscal 2019 DOE budget request includes $403 million for WIPP. That compares to an estimated $377 million in the final fiscal 2018 budget.