A view of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant 700-C ventilation fan, which has successfully undergone an initial short-duration test as a first step toward restarting the system.
A view of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant 700-C ventilation fan, which has successfully undergone an initial short-duration test as a first step toward restarting the system.

CARLSBAD, N.M. EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) has conducted an initial short-duration test of its ventilation fan known as 700-C — the first step toward restarting the system to help provide additional airflow in the underground waste repository.

“Based on preliminary data, the 700-C fan initial test has been successfully completed,” EM Carlsbad Field Office Manager Reinhard Knerr said. “The eventual restart of this fan is very important to improve underground working conditions and fully support the DOE’s operational mission.”

EM and WIPP management and operations contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP) are analyzing the test data and will make available the full results once the analysis is complete. A follow-up virtual public meeting will then be held to discuss the findings. Data will be posted to the 700-C webpage as soon as it is available. Once the data had been evaluated and accepted, WIPP will move forward to return the 700-C fan to full operation.

Sean Dunagan, NWP president and project manager, said the WIPP team was pleased to have finished the four-hour 700-C fan test.

“Most importantly, throughout testing, protective measures were in place that ensured the safety of our employees and the community, which is our top priority,” Dunagan said.

Those measures included specific weather criteria that had to be met, which resulted in some delays in completion of the test. During testing, air monitoring activities were conducted by NWP and the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, an independent organization managed by New Mexico State University-Carlsbad. Out of an abundance of caution, only personnel involved in the testing, and essential safety and security personnel were allowed onsite. The 700-C fan has been thoroughly inspected to ensure its operational safety.

“This is a great first step toward restart of the 700-C fan,” said Rick Fuentes, United Steelworkers Local 12-9477 president, representing the bargaining unit employees. “The improved airflow that will result from restart will greatly benefit the health and safety of the workforce at WIPP.”