NEW MEXICO – A wireless system is now in place underground at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), that allows two-way communication for both talk and text, with audible and flashing alarms, so personnel can immediately signal the Central Monitoring Room during an emergency.
The system also provides real-time tracking of all personnel entering the WIPP underground.
Disposal operations at WIPP, the transuranic waste disposal site outside of Carlsbad, N.M., were suspended after two serious incidents in February 2014 that involved worker exposures to smoke and radiation, causing DOE to issue a Preliminary Notice of Violation to Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC for violations of DOE worker safety and health and nuclear safety requirements and the National Nuclear Security Administration to issue a PNOV to Los Alamos National Security for violations of DOE’s nuclear safety requirements.
Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC is the management and operating contractor for WIPP, while Los Alamos National Security is the management and operating contractor for NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. The Feb. 5, 2014, event involved a fire in a salt haul truck underground, with six workers later treated for smoke inhalation.
On Feb. 14, a continuous air monitor went into alarm because of a radiological release; DOE later confirmed 13 workers’ radiation exposures.