As part of the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System, 20-foot-tall exhaust fan assemblies are being placed in the New Filter Building for eventual hookup to the ports at left that come from HEPA filter banks. The 1,000-horsepower motors will pull 540,000 cubic feet per minute of air through the system, compared to the 170,000 cubic feet per minute of filtered air through the current system. Air will be exhausted upward and then out through a 125-foot-tall stack.

As part of the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System, 20-foot-tall exhaust fan assemblies are being placed in the New Filter Building for eventual hookup to the ports at left that come from HEPA filter banks. The 1,000-horsepower motors will pull 540,000 cubic feet per minute of air through the system, compared to the 170,000 cubic feet per minute of filtered air through the current system. Air will be exhausted upward and then out through a 125-foot-tall stack.

CARLSBAD, N.M. – Progress on the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System at EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) continues, with crews rapidly approaching the completion of construction of its buildings.

The system is a modern ventilation system designed to move up to 540,000 cubic feet per minute of air through the underground at WIPP, the nation’s only deep geologic repository for defense-related transuranic waste.

The new ventilation system would more than triple airflow, meaning increased capacity for ground-control bolting and mining work while allowing waste emplacement to happen concurrently. Bolting controls the movement of salt rock — known as salt creep — in the WIPP underground.

The ventilation system consists of two structures, the Salt Reduction Building (SRB) and the New Filter Building (NFB). The SRB will prefilter air coming from the underground, dropping salt out of the airflow before it continues to the NFB, where six 1,000-horsepower fans will pull air through 22 banks of HEPA filtration. Up to four of the six fans will operate at a time, with one in standby and one rotated out for maintenance.

The six salt reduction units are fully installed in the SRB, which is expected to be commissioned starting in September. Commissioning entails checking to ensure the fans and other installed systems work properly.

The most dramatic visual changes to the ventilation system are occurring inside the NFB. The 22 switchable HEPA filter housing units have been placed on their bases and are starting to be connected to ductwork. On the other side of the wall inside the NFB, all six massive exhaust fan housings have been moved on to their bases.

Ductwork will connect the filters through a double wall, known as a plenum, to the fans, which will propel air vertically through more ductwork and out to a 125-foot-high exhaust stack. The stack’s first two sections have been installed on its base, and the remainder of the stack is expected to be erected by the end of this month.

“This is going to be a momentous month with so many of the ventilation system’s components coming together. We are excited to see the progress,” said Ralph Musick, a vice president and capital asset projects manager for Salado Isolation Mining Contractors, EM’s management and operations contractor at WIPP.

One of the final parts of the project will take the existing elbow of ductwork coming from the WIPP underground and turn it nearly 90 degrees, away from the existing filter building to connect to the SRB via airborne ductwork.

The switchover to the new ventilation system is scheduled to occur in two years, after the startup phase of the new ventilation system is completed and authorized by EM.