A 101,000-pound work platform known as a Galloway has been lowered into WIPP’s utility shaft being constructed. It was placed there to begin the next phase of construction on what will eventually be a 2,275-foot-deep airway into the WIPP underground, EM’s repository for legacy transuranic (TRU) waste. At 26 feet in diameter, it will be WIPP’s fifth and largest utility shaft.
“It’s really great to see work resuming on the utility shaft,” said Janelle Armijo, the Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) federal project director for the utility shaft and Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS) projects. “This is another step forward in ensuring we have the infrastructure in place to support WIPP disposal operations for years to come.”
Workers excavated the shaft down to 116 feet, setting up the next step. The four-story cylindrical work platform named for a Scottish mining engineer will be key to blasting and excavation operations in the months ahead. When mining has reached the 2,150-foot level, a mining machine will begin carving out passageways, or drifts, eastward, toward the existing WIPP facility.
Crews will construct a metal frame, known as a headframe, over the shaft. Cables from winches will run over pulleys, known as bull wheels, atop the headframe and connect to the top of the work platform. Lift buckets connected to other winches will come up through the middle of the work platform, filled with rubble blasted loose at the bottom of the shaft.
When the shaft is completed, two large fans will push air down the shaft into the underground as part of an improvement to WIPP’s ventilation system. WIPP’s 11th and 12th panels are planned for the west side of the underground, in the direction of the utility shaft under construction. Panels are disposal areas where TRU waste is emplaced. Five passageways will connect the existing mine to the utility shaft area.
On the other side of the WIPP site, the SSCVS is being constructed.
The SSCVS is key to restoring full operations at WIPP and is the largest construction project at the site in almost 30 years. The system will provide a modern air supply system designed to run continuously in unfiltered or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration mode. When finished, the SSCVS will be the largest containment fan system among DOE facilities.
It will use six 1,000-horsepower fans to pull air through the underground mine. Airflow will increase 217%, from 170,000 cubic feet per minute to 540,000 cubic feet per minute, allowing for more worker comfort and the use of more equipment in the underground. WIPP workers will be able to conduct waste emplacement, mining and bolting simultaneously.
The Industrial Company, a subcontractor to Nuclear Waste Partnership, WIPP’s management and operations contractor, has completed the enclosure of the 25,000-square-foot Salt Reduction Building (SRB). It will act as a prefilter, using de-dusters and water misters to drop salt out of the air pulled from the underground before it heads to the 50,000-square-foot New Filter Building (NFB).
In the NFB, air will flow through switchable HEPA filter banks before exhausting out a 125-foot-high exhaust stack. The NFB’s slab-on-grade foundation was completed weeks early, allowing visible progress on the building. Concrete placements continue on the building’s walls. Completion of construction of the NFB is an EM 2022 priority.
“Our subcontractor is making great progress on the new permanent ventilation system,” said Reinhard Knerr, CBFO manager. “Anyone driving by the WIPP site can see how the skyline is changing in a positive way that will support future WIPP operations.”
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