The Energy Department’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico would get a funding spike to $403 million in the Trump administration fiscal 2019 budget request released Monday. That would be $79 million over the 2017 enacted level of spending and $99 million more than WIPP’s annualized spending under a series of short-term budgets passed by Congress in the current fiscal 2018.
The beefed-up WIPP budget would include $85 million for building a new permanent ventilation system and underground shaft designed to increase underground airflow to allow simultaneous mining and waste emplacement, according to a summary of the $6.6 funding billion proposal for DOE’s Office of Environmental Management.
Total airflow is now roughly 114,000 cubic feet per minute (CFM). Installation of the new system, which is expected to be operational by 2022, should increase the airflow to about 540,000 CFM.
During an afternoon telephone briefing with reporters, DOE officials said WIPP, as the nation’s only underground repository for defense transuranic waste, is important to the department’s cleanup of its Cold War nuclear infrastructure. Waste from DOE sites in Idaho, New Mexico, Tennessee, and elsewhere is shipped to WIPP for permanent disposal.
In January, WIPP resumed limited underground salt mining for the first time since the mine was taken offline following a pair of February 2014 accidents. The site reopened nearly three years later, and resumed taking waste from other DOE sites in April 2017.
WIPP received 133 shipments during its roughly nine months of waste operations in 2017.