The Albuquerque Journal discovered that the contractor for WIPP received a 1.9 million dollar performance bonus… after the WIPP fire in February. This raises serious questions about the contractor system and oversight. If such a laundry list of now discovered failures and two major incidents, including a release to the environment would still qualify a contractor for a performance bonus. In March the DOE inspector general cited systemic problems with the contractor system.
A report from Los Alamos on the barrel explosion at WIPP cites an unusual possible event. Page 10 cites a “green burst” as a possible event under broader issues but fails to explain what the “green burst” might be or the potential of whatever it is happening. The report does shed some light on the issues around the suspect barrels and also brings up the potential that other materials in the barrel at WIPP could have lead to the explosion.
The DOE report from back in April cites a “green burst” as being seen by security near the electrical yard. This event was before the alarms went off in the underground alerting to a barrel event.
“At 2250, security reported to the CMR that they had observed “green burst” and heard arcing noises at the utility substation. The acting Facility Shift Manager (FSM) responded to the east fence line and heard a “popping noise” from the alternate B feed lines but did not observe any glow. He instructed the Central Monitoring Room Operator (CMRO) to contact Xcel Energy and inform them of the situation. At 2310, the CMRO called Xcel Energy which reported all normal indications on the WIPP utility yard. All Central Monitoring System (CMS) indications were normal at this time and there was no indication of seismic or other unusual activity. The response to the green burst and noise placed the acting FSM in the field near the ventilation system at the time of the accident.”
The July 22nd WIPP report indicated some electrical damage in the underground:
“On July 18, employees entered the underground facility to conduct radiological surveys and evaluate ground control conditions to ensure the continued safety of future entry teams. They also tested a localized power unit and substation, identifying the reasons for its inoperability. Workers are now preparing to repair the unit during an upcoming entry.”
There is currently not anything clearly tying the two events but this is the first we have seen of the admission that there are electrical problems or damage in the underground.
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