House Subcommittee Approves an Additional $120 Million for WIPP Recovery and Cleanup Efforts



Runs 6/13/14 through 6/20/14

(THEME UP AND UNDER)  This is the CCNS News Update, an overview of the latest nuclear safety issues, brought to you every week by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety.  Here is this week’s top headline:

*  House Subcommittee Approves an Additional $120 Million for WIPP Recovery and Cleanup Efforts

Members of a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee appropriated $220 million for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), matching the Obama Administration request, and added $120 million in order to try to get the nuclear bomb waste facility back up and running.  The House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee allowed the Department of Energy (DOE) to offset the additional funding for Fiscal Year 2015 with cuts to some DOE pension funds.  Details about how the money may be spent should be available in a few weeks.  If approved by both the House and Senate, the funding would be available on October 1st.

Last week, New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich wrote to President Obama requesting additional funding “to restore full operations at WIPP.”

Don Hancock, Nuclear Waste Director of Southwest Research and Information Center, commented that DOE does not know how much it will cost to reopen WIPP and asked whether additional funds will be needed in the future, since the cleanup process could be ongoing for several years.

Because the explosion and release were never supposed to happen, no cleanup standard has been established.  Further, it is unknown what type of cleanup would be needed to meet such a standard because cleanup of a salt mine contaminated with nuclear bomb waste has never been done before.

In related news, WIPP workers dressed in full protective equipment began replacing the contaminated High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters from one of two large ventilation filter banks located on the surface.  The workers went through training to learn how to remove the filters contaminated with plutonium and americium.  The filters are being sprayed with a fixative to hold the contamination during filter removal.  It is estimated that it will take anywhere from four to eight weeks to complete the operation.  During the change out, no one will be allowed to go into the underground mine.

Both filter banks have been operating since the February 14th radiation release.  During the filter change, ventilated air from the underground will only be going through one filter bank.  It is unknown whether the ventilation changes will result in an increase or decrease in the amount of contamination that will leave the underground.  If it increases, the workers may have problems changing the filters.  Every effort is being made to protect the workers.

On Thursday, June 19th, the City of Carlsbad and DOE will co-host a public meeting about the WIPP recovery activities at 5:30 pm at the Carlsbad City Council Chambers.  The meetings are now being held on the first and third Thursdays of the month and are live-streamed at 


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