Friday, March 28, 2014

WIPP Reverse Timeline

28 March 2014 / The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico is in an unsettled state.

27 March 2014 / The Department of Energy said that it will unseal WIPP and enter the WIPP underground area to begin investigating the cause and extent of a mysterious radiation leak. DOE officials said that the shafts that workers will use to access the half-mile-deep repository will be inspected, and that a crew of eight will enter the mine early next week.

27 March 2014 / NM Sens. Udall and Heinrich asked US Dept. of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez why the Mine Safety and Health Administration had not done legally required regular inspections at WIPP.

 "The information about missed safety inspections was revealed in the DOE’s accident report on the Feb. 5 fire at WIPP. A specialized salt mine over 2,000 feet below ground, WIPP is covered by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. By law, the Labor Department’s MSHA is required to inspect WIPP no less than four times a year. Yet records in the accident report indicate that MSHA had performed inspections just twice in the last three years."

 ”The health and safety of the workers at WIPP and the surrounding community are our top priorities and it is extremely concerning to learn that a fire in the mining portion of WIPP was a preventable circumstance,” Udall and Heinrich wrote.

 The senators asked Perez to provide them with an explanation of the factors that led MSHA to miss inspections, a summary of the findings of the inspections that MSHA did complete, assurance that MSHA will follow the inspection process in the future, a summary of steps MSHA will take to ensure that such an accident does not occur again, and a pledge that MSHA staff will be available at WIPP throughout the recovery process to ensure the safety of the investigations, remediation, and future re-opening
of WIPP.

 21 March 2014 / The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board sent a letter to DOE Secretary E Moniz apprising him of their commission by NM Sens. Udall and Heinrich to study safety procedures at WIPP.

 13 March 2014 / A DOE accident board issued its report determining that the salt truck fire was preventable. Further, the board judged that the emergency response to the fire was inadequate in several ways.

 4 March 2014 / NM Sens. Udall and Heinrich asked the DNFSB to study WIPP site emergency procedures and to make recommendations for possible changes.

14 Feb. 2014 / A radiation release occurred in the WIPP underground area, with some of the released radioactive material finding its way above ground, and to the borders of the WIPP site. DOE said that the release of radioactive material was unrelated to the salt truck fire of a week ago. However, DOE also said that it did not yet know how radioactive material came to be released into the underground area, nor how it made its way above ground. The WIPP site was sealed by DOE until further notice.

7 Feb. 2014 / The DOE appointed a board to study the WIPP salt truck fire and to make recommendations.

5 Feb. 2014 / A salt truck fire occurred at WIPP in an underground area, leading to evacuation of that area by 86 WIPP workers. Thirteen of these workers suffered smoke inhalation and required emergency medical care. Of those requiring emergency medical care, six were transported to Carlsbad Medical Center and seven were treated on-site.

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