Public domain image.

The Department of Energy has fined the contractors that manage Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories nearly $1 million for mishandling sensitive material.

Wikimedia Commons

As cleanup of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant commences, folks down south remain concerned about transparency and oversight.

By ENERGY.GOV [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Public domain image.

Department of Energy investigators say a radiation release from the federal government's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico was the result of a slow erosion of safety at the 15-year-old site.

In a report released Thursday, they also say the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad fails to meet federal standards for nuclear facilities and its employees bungled their response to the emergency.

Department of Energy

UPDATE 5:30p 2/6: Work has resumed at southeastern New Mexico's nuclear waste repository. But officials say they don't yet know what caused the truck fire that forced an evacuation of the underground site.

A spokesman says an investigation will be conducted at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, where low level waste from the nation's nuclear weapons plants is stored in salt beds.

The site was evacuated and six people were treated for smoke inhalation after a truck hauling salt caught fire Wednesday.