Project Reach completes underground photographic work using CFRP boom

Carbon fiber composites using No Autoclave, No Oven epoxy resin enable safe inspection of waste containers and preliminary confirmation of single container as the cause of 2014 radiological event.

The U.S. Dept. of Energy Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP, Carlsbad, NM, US) issued an update in early February, indicating that video and photographic work using the Project Reach 32m composite boom had been completed.

The carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) composite boom (detailed in the Feb. 2015 issue of CW) was equipped with high resolution photographic equipment and sensors, and then used by WIPP employees to explore and document all waste stacks and packages in Room 7, Panel 7, the location of a radiological event that occurred on February 14, 2014.

According to Ted Wyka, chairman of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Accident Investigation Board (AIB), “a preliminary review of the visual evidence obtained by the AIB using the Reach equipment supports that a single drum (LANL68660) was the source of the February 14 radiological release event.”

Wyka also headed the Project Reach team that made multiple underground entries over several weeks to photograph all waste containers and waste stacks in Panel 7, Room 7.

Waste in the WIPP underground facility is stacked in six columns, with each column consisting of up to three layers of transuranic waste containers. The Project Reach boom and camera systems were installed on a movable cradle and mounted on a support structure that allowed operators to examine waste stacks from floor to ceiling and from wall to wall. The use of CFRP composites was key to the boom’s requirements for stiffness and lightweight, and also played a key part in the very tight timeline of less than eight weeks for construction, testing and delivery. No Autoclave, No Oven epoxy resin (NONA Composites, Dayton, OH, US) enabled fast, affordable tooling and cure cycles, critical to meeting the project’s requirements.

WIPP Accident Investigation Board members are currently reviewing the video data, but all data so far indicate no additional waste containers were breached. Meanwhile, now that its job is done, the Project Reach device is being dismantled. Hopefully the Project Reach device won’t be needed again soon. But if it is, the CFRP boom — designed to be easily taken apart and reassembled — will be ready to make its work efficient and effective.