The Department of Energy announced last week a proposal to ship 3 million gallons of radioactive waste from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state to be stored at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.
It would mean years of additional projects for WIPP, and that means jobs. Jack Volpato Jr. is the Chair of the Eddy County Commission. He says he's hopeful the Hanford waste can be ok'd for storage at WIPP. “WIPP is coming to a crossroads in it's mission,” Volpato explained, “and we need to find new missions to keep it going.”
But Senator Tom Udall is calling for caution as the DOE moves forward with the proposal. The Democrat points out that New Mexico has nuclear projects that need funding also, like ongoing cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “The DOE is asking NM to do more to help clean up in WA state,” Udall says, “If New Mexico is to do more for DOE, then DOE needs to do more for New Mexico.”
WIPP is permitted by the state of New Mexico to receive transuranic waste (TRU), a relatively low level nuclear waste. Much of the waste at Hanford is high level nuclear waste and the state has prohibited WIPP from receiving waste shipments from the site.