WIPP or is “how wet” the real question?



The appropriate question to ask about the Department of Defense (DOD) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) project in southeast New Mexico is not “Will Salt Repositories be Dry?” (J. D. Bredehoeft, in Eos, March 1, 1988, p. 121) but “How Fast and How Much WIPP Brine Will Reach Waste Containers?” Bredehoeft's Table 1 (p. 121) shows seven values of permeability (out of 20 tests) that are substantially greater than 1 microdarcy. Bredehoeft's statement that “… test data … indicate low permeabilities, ranging from 1 microdarcy to ∼1 nanodarcy…” should read something like “The small sample of 20 tests include seven tests that gave maximum permeability values ranging from 3000 microdarcies to 3 microdarcies, with an average maximum value for the 20 tests of about 300 microdarcies.” This larger value of permeability would reduce tunnel-filling time from the 50–100 year range to 2–4 months.