New Mexico is fining the U.S. Department of Energy $54 million for incidents at the nation’s only underground nuclear waste storage facility.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant stores nuclear weapons waste deep in underground salt caverns. There was an underground fire in February, followed by a release of radioactivity that contaminated 22 workers and shuttered the facility.
After a nine-month investigation, the New Mexico Environment Department issued compliance orders to WIPP and to Los Alamos National Laboratory, naming over three dozen hazardous waste violations and demanding the federal government address them.
If the Department of Energy can show compliance, the state says the fines could be reduced.