WIPP Nearing reopening two years later (or three…..) (February 2016)

CARLSBAD – Two years to the day after a radiation leak occurred at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, forcing the facility to shut down operations, officials say the recovery process is finally approaching the finish line.

“When I walk around the site people always ask when they get to start again,” said Todd Shrader, manager of the Carlsbad Field Office, on Friday.

On Feb. 14, 2014, a continuous air monitor alarm went off during the night shift indicating that a radiation leak had occurred.

It was just nine days after Feb. 5, 2014, when a salt haul truck unexpectedly caught on fire.

Since the two incidents, WIPP has not been receiving nuclear waste for storage and has been in recovery mode.

Every step taken during the facility’s recovery has been meant to facilitate the reopening of the facility and to do it safely and right.

Shrader said that safety in the workplace is the focus for everything done at WIPP, from recovery activities to new procedures.

“The biggest challenge we faced early on is operating,” Shrader said. “For 15 years we operated a certain way and then overnight it was changed.”

He said WIPP’s workforce had to learn new jobs or learn how to do certain things a completely different way.

“People have really stepped up in that sense,” Shrader said.

WIPP is expected to open sometime this year, with officials indicating that it will most likely be closer to the end of the year.

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Sarah A Matott, Carlsbad Current-Argus 1:33 p.m. MST February 13, 2016, as posted at http://www.currentargus.com/story/news/local/2016/02/13/nearing-reopening-two-years-later/80314696/

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