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WIPP Monitoring Potential Rock Fall

on September 28, 2017 - 9:58pm

WIPP News:

CARLESBAD Highly-sensitive ground monitoring instrumentation in Panel 7, Room 6, of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) underground is indicating increasing ground movement rates.

This area has been prohibited to personnel access for more than a year, meaning no one has entered the area. The increased rates of movement are a sign of ground (rock) instability and indicate a possible rock fall will occur. Based on current instrumentation readings and experiences from Panel 7, Room 4, last year, the likelihood of a rock fall in Room 6 is increasing.

Rock falls are not uncommon in prohibited areas of the WIPP underground, where ground control activities are not being performed.

Salt movement is expected in the WIPP underground and is one reason salt was selected as a disposal medium. All underground openings at WIPP are closely monitored on a regular basis, and closure rates throughout the underground are tracked and recorded.

During the past year, extensive bolting (ground control) activities have been performed and completed throughout Panel 7 to stabilize the ground conditions for employee safety and waste emplacement. These activities did not include Room 6, which was prohibited from entry due to existing ground conditions. The remainder of Panel 7 remains stable, with expected rates of salt closure. 

The potential rock fall in Panel 7, Room 6, is not expected to have any impact on the rest of the existing panel, including the TRU waste containers that have been permanently disposed of in the panel. These conclusions are based on a previous rock fall that occurred in Panel 7, Room 4, with similar ground control. All occupied areas in the underground have significant ground control and maintenance activities performed on a regular basis.

Employees who work in the underground have been informed of the situation and will continue to receive weekly updates. The safety of the workforce is the top priority. Plans are being developed and precautions taken to ensure continued workforce safety.