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By ENERGY.GOV (WIPP Practice Exercise) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Phase two of WIPP recovery about to begin

Zack Ponce | Carlsbad Current-Argus (Carlsbad, N.M.)

CARLSBAD — Phase two of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant underground recovery process is about to begin according to Department of Energy officials.

Workers at WIPP, located 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, recently completed air filter replacement and will next move on to cleaning soot in the underground salt mines that lingers from the Feb. 5 truck fire. The next phase of cleanup also includes underground safety checks, additional radiological surveys, restoring mine habitability and ground control and monitoring.

As the investigation into the Feb. 14 radiation leak continues, WIPP teams have been exploring avenues to search all nuclear waste drums in Panel 7, Room 7 without physically moving them.

Investigators have only been able to examine a portion of the waste containers that are closest to the entrance and have been developing a device to hold a video camera that is both long enough and sturdy enough to reach farther into the room.

Some of the options include a device that uses carbon fiber rods to extend the camera, a gantry camera suspended on wires, or a boom system mounted on a trolley that would move across the waste face from wall to wall and out 90 feet to view all rows of waste according to the DOE.

Related: Closure of WIPP casts long shadow

Employees have created a mock-up of the room where the radiation leak occurred to assist in the testing of equipment and search methods. The area measures 33 feet wide and 80 feet deep according to the DOE.

Staff from WIPP, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Savannah River National Laboratory are participating in testing process.

Reporter Zack Ponce can be reached at (575) 689-7402.

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