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Project Highlight – WIPP Site SSCVS Fan Design and Procurement

By April 5, 2023No Comments3 min read

We are always thrilled when one of our long-term projects starts moving toward the finish line!  In May 2017, Encorus Group was retained to procure six gigantic fans for the Safety-Significant Confinement Ventilation System (SSCVS) at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico.  Transuranic (TRU) waste began accumulating in the 1940s with the beginning of the nation’s nuclear defense program, as a byproduct of nuclear fuel assembly, nuclear weapon research and production, and the processing of spent nuclear fuel.  To date, the Department of Energy has 17 national labs in the US which produce transuranic waste.  In the 1950s, it was recommended that deep disposal of radioactive wastes should occur in geologically-stable areas of deep salt beds.  Strict government regulations require radioactive wastes to be isolated to protect human health and the environment.  Throughout the 1960s, US government scientists searched for an appropriate site for radioactive waste disposal.  Testing in a remote desert area of New Mexico found that the ancient area of the Permian Sea had created a 2,000 foot thick salt bed.  Construction began on the WIPP site in 1984 and was completed in 1989.

The waste mine is over 2,000 feet below ground.  Access to the mine is gained by one of four vertical shafts.  The largest shaft, twenty feet in diameter, is used to transport employees, equipment, and waste underground.  There is also a ten-foot diameter salt shaft, which is used to extract the salt in order to make room for the TRU waste.  The final two shafts are for air intake and exhaust.

Encorus Group designed and procured six 1,000 HP fans to produce the 540,000CFM of airflow needed for mining and waste emplacement operations.  The SSCVS project will filter all the air exiting the WIPP nuclear waste repository.  The fans constructed are the biggest fans in the entire Department of Energy, and no one has ever qualified a fan this large to AG-1 standards (ASME Code on Nuclear Air and Gas Treatment in nuclear facilities).  It took 18 tractor trailers to move the six fans to the site, and each fan is over 32 feet tall!

The development of the WIPP site is critical, as it has allowed the Department of Energy to store waste permanently and maintain the safety of the stored waste, which in turn protects people and the environment.  Because this is the only permanent nuclear waste disposal site in the US, the safety and quality requirements were the key reasons that this project has taken several years to complete.

Encorus Group had a number of staff working on this project in different capacities.  Lindse Runge and Sandy Queeno supervised the NQA-1 (National Quality Assurance) program compliance, Jeff Scott and Jonathan Fabian designed the controls / power, John Bard was the project manager and Tom Gilmartin was the principal overseeing the project.