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WIPP Panels Risk-Status, 21 Jan. 2015, WIPP gov:
What they neglect to tell everyone is that failure is PLANNED. It’s just faster than they planned, or is it? That’s the reason they backfill and put a wall on each panel. They expect the salt to gradually collapse. Smaller volume is increased pressure. 
As the containers are collapsed upon or otherwise leak; with corrosion from humidity or water, exacerbated by salt, there will be a build-up of gases in the WIPP panels and explosions are probable. Common sense says that salt dissolves and increases corrosion. Only in nuclear fantasy la-la land is nuclear waste stored in salt a good thing!
WIPP gov lay-out showing filled Panels in Gray
Initially there was to be backfill, concrete or brick wall, and then a steel wall. Some panels (rooms) have this, from what we understand. However, they decided that the steel barrier was too costly, it seems. They decided to monitor the panels for gas build-up instead.
How does this make sense? How will they build a wall when it is about to explode? “When the third disposal panel was filled (WIPP plans a total of 10), DOE petitioned its primary repository regulators (The New Mexico Environment Department – NMED, and the Environmental Protection Agency – EPA) to allow monitoring of gases interior to the disposal panel in lieu of installing explosion walls. DOE argued that by routine monitoring, it could determine if flammable gases were building to potentially explosive levels or not. If concentrations approached action levels or if the monitoring system failed, DOE proposed to construct the explosion walls as originally conceived. This approach allowed DOE to conduct monitoring to potentially demonstrate that explosion walls, and eventually even more robust panel closures, might not be necessary for safe operation of the repository.” http://www.epa.gov/radiation/docs/wipp/panel_closure/panelclosure_enc_92811.pdf Does this mean that Panel 3 is the oldest one lacking explosion walls?
Some clarification on monitoring:
“March 25, 2008 – NMED issued a Final Determination on two Class 2 PMRs to the WIPP Permit submitted by the Permittees on November 26, 2007. The PMRs included requests to allow the WIPP Operating Record to be maintained in an unalterable, searchable electronic format; monitor each full panel for hydrogen and methane until final panel closure; establish action levels for hydrogen and methane; install substantial barriers and steel bulkheads to isolate a full panel for monitoring purposes; evaluate the monitoring data to determine an appropriate final closure system; revise the location and frequency of volatile organic compound (VOC) monitoring in full panels until final panel closure; inspect and certify the explosion-isolation walls in Panels 1 and 2 and inspect the bulkheads in Panels 3 through 7 until final panel closure; and extend the final closure in Panels 1 through 7 to 2016. After considering all public comment, NMED approved the modification with changes.” http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/wipp/
WIPP shows why waste must be stored in some sort of solid bunkers, not in salt, and watched forever and ever. It should be stored in neat and proper containers, and repackaged, as needed. People need jobs – well, there they are: watching nuclear waste for an eternity, literally. WIPP seems to be the better of US nuclear waste dumps too! Most disposal appears to involve digging holes, sometimes lining with concrete, adding a clay level or plastic as an “engineered barrier” and then monitoring the speed at which it leaks! It’s certainly not human engineering, especially not 20th century human engineering and aren’t we in the 21st century now? This is not as serious as beavers who monitor their engineering works carefully and quickly repair any leak. If beavers hear a water leak, they come running to fix the breached dam. As we’ve noted already, much nuclear waste disposal looks more like cat latrines, except cat shit isn’t radioactive waste (or not yet).
The Problems at WIPP Have Likely Only Just Begun
Think we are kidding? WIPP was opened in 1999. A US EPA document about WIPP estimates that
“the potential for a methane deflagration and consequent pressure buildup would not occur for at least 20 years after panel closure“. They note that three possible mechanisms for gas generation by the TRU wastes are
2) Anoxic corrosion, the chemical reaction of the carbon steel waste containers with any brine that might be present to produce mainly hydrogen gas; and
3) Microbial reactions with some of the organic waste constituents (e.g., cellulose)“. (p.12)
They “estimate that an explosive condition could develop in 20 years … Research has shown that even with the presence of sufficient water/brine, biogeneration of methane would not commence until at least seven years following panel closure“. (p.14)
They state that “potential for a methane explosion is not projected to occur for at least 18 years (and most probably not for 30 years if at all)“.(p. 15) They speak of “the possibility that the wastes would generate enough hydrogen or methane to result in an explosive mixture in the repository“. (p. 4) http://www.epa.gov/radiation/docs/wipp/pecos/panelclosure_oct06.pdf
Last year’s “incidents” (fire-apparent explosion-radiation leak) occurred after the facility had been open for around 14 years. Some of the panels have probably been full and closed, or quasi-closed, for 7 years or more. This is why we believed, from the beginning, that last year’s fire-apparent explosions may have been from closed panels and not a vehicle fire and not from the open panel, as alleged.
Who really believes that this is appropriate packaging for dangerous, long-lived, transuranic nuclear waste, such as plutonium or americium (or any other variety of nuclear waste, for that matter)? Is the US government on a power and/or money high, or some other sort of high? This sort of “storage” is preposterous. Though “Energy Solutions”, run by former Goldman Sachs investment bankers, was responsible for packaging of at least some of this waste, the US and New Mexico government are supposed to have oversight. “Energy Solutions” is also involved with the clean-up of water at Fukushima, which is apparently happening NOT, or at least not in a thorough and timely manner. Is there a pattern here? Should investment bankers be involved in nuclear waste?
January 21, 2015
Roof Separation Highlights Bolting Priority
On January 15, Mining and Ground Control Engineers at WIPP discovered that a portion of the ceiling in the Panel 3 access drift had fallen in a restricted access area. The roof fall was discovered during routine ground control and bulkhead inspections conducted by WIPP geotechnical staff, and the section that fell was estimated to be approximately 8’ long by 8’wide and 24” thick. Access to this area has been restricted since November 2014 due to ground control concerns, and no WIPP personnel were present at the time of the fall. The area where the fall occurred is also known to contain low levels of radioactive contamination as a result of the February 14, 2014, radiological release.
This event highlights the need to continue prioritizing roof bolting and ground control in both the contaminated and uncontaminated areas of the WIPP underground facility in order to ensure safety and habitability in the underground. This area was originally scheduled to be re-bolted during the annual outage in February 2014. The outage was suspended as a result of the fire and radiological incidents, and the bolting was not performed. WIPP geotechnical inspections conducted in November 2014 identified seven areas in the underground facility where access was restricted due to significant bolt loss. Barriers and signs were installed to identify these restricted areas, and workers are reminded of these restrictions as part of daily pre-job briefings before entering the underground facility. The area where the roof fall occurred was one of the seven locations previously identified.
Roof bolting resumed in mid-November of 2014, and ground control engineers have indicated that the area where the roof fall occurred can be re-bolted and recovered. The map to the right identifies the areas where progress has been made to catch up on the backlog of ground control and maintenance activities, as well as areas where access is restricted until bolting activities can be completed.” http://www.wipp.energy.gov/wipprecovery/recovery.html
 Although we haven’t read this, it is probably hot in WIPP, as well, since many deep mines are hot. Increased heat underground should increase pressures, as well. Regardless, decreased volume from collapse will increase pressure.