Skip directly to content

WIPP Shares Details On Underground Rock Fall

on November 16, 2018 - 7:41am
WIPP News:
A rock fall in Room 6, Panel 7, of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) underground has apparently occurred, according to worker observations.
The fall is believed to have occurred around 7 p.m. Wednesday, when underground personnel heard a loud thud while performing inspections in Panel 7. Room 6 has been prohibited to routine personnel access for over two years due to unsafe ground conditions. The room does not contain transuranic waste.
Employees exited the area, and all underground work was stopped. An orderly egress of the underground was performed, and all 53 underground personnel were accounted for. No one was injured, and there is no indication of a radiological release.
“Everyone responded as their training dictated,” said Bruce Covert, president and project manager of Nuclear Waste Partnership. “We are pleased our employees followed all the appropriate procedures and protocols.”
According to Todd Shrader, manager of the Department of Energy (DOE) Carlsbad Field Office, rock falls in prohibited areas are normal and expected.
“I want to emphasize that rock falls are not unexpected in areas that have been prohibited, since we no longer perform ground control activities,” Shrader said. “All the proper precautions and safety measures were in place to protect our employees.”
Rock movement at WIPP is common. One of the main attributes of salt is its ability to creep or close excavated areas. Over time, the salt completely cocoons waste containers, permanently isolating them from the environment. WIPP’s geotechnical engineers had been closely monitoring the ground movement in Room 6 since September 2017 and were anticipating a rock fall.
WIPP’s Mine Rescue Team is gearing up to perform a thorough inspection of the WIPP underground before operations resume. Geotechnical engineers will eventually pull instrumentation information from Panel 7 to provide final confirmation and location of the rock fall.