New Underground Ventilation System Under Construction at WIPP

The system will provide approximately 540,000 cubic feet per minute of air to the WIPP underground, significantly more than the current ventilation system. At an estimated cost of $288 million, the new ventilation system is expected to be completed by early 2021.

U.S. Department of Energy officials joined with local community leaders on June 14 for the groundbreaking ceremony of a new underground ventilation system for DOE's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, N.M. The new Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS) will allow for increased waste shipments to WIPP by allowing mining, waste emplacement, rock bolting, and maintenance activities to occur simultaneously.

"In my first trip to WIPP as the assistant secretary for Environmental Management, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in breaking ground on this new ventilation system. The new system provides WIPP state-of-the-art air handling capabilities, which will be a significant improvement to WIPP in support of its critical role in our national mission," Anne White said.

"The new ventilation system will provide WIPP more than 500,000 cubic feet per minute of air to the WIPP underground while running in a filtration mode that will be protective of the public and environment," DOE Carlsbad Field Office Manager Todd Shrader said. "It allows us more flexibility while performing waste emplacement and mining activities."

The SSCVS provides a modern air supply system designed to run continuously in HEPA filtration. The system will provide approximately 540,000 cubic feet per minute of air to the WIPP underground, significantly more than the current ventilation system in place at the facility, and it allows easier filter replacement and preventative maintenance activities. At an estimated cost of $288 million, the new ventilation system is expected to be completed by early 2021.

"This is a significant improvement for WIPP in support of its important national mission," said Bruce Covert, president and project manager of Nuclear Waste Partnership, the WIPP management and operations contractor. "I am appreciative of the unwavering support from our local, state, and federal elected officials and stakeholders who ensure we have the proper funding to make infrastructure improvements, like the new ventilation system."

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