KUNM Call In Show 12/11 8a: The New Mexico Environment Department has fined the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and Los Alamos National Laboratory a total of $54 million related to two incidents at the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository earlier this year. An underground fire and a release of radiation in February contaminated 22 workers and shuttered the facility.
What are the fines for? And what must WIPP and LANL do to come into compliance with hazardous waste permits? Are the fines enough?
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.
News broke last weekend that Los Alamos National Laboratory took shortcuts when treating some nuclear waste headed to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. One of the LANL waste drums sprang a radiation leak earlier this year, contaminating workers and closing the facility.
Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz hosted a town hall meeting in Carlsbad last night to talk about recovery efforts at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. It's the nation's only underground nuclear waste storage facility, just 26 miles east of the town. WIPP has remained closed since the radiation leak in mid-February, and the cause of the leak remains unclear.
Secretary Moniz promised the crowd that WIPP will re-open, and members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation talked about their efforts to get WIPP the funds it needs to operate safely.
New Mexico's two U.S. senators want President Obama to change his proposed budget to ensure that there's money for work needed at the federal government's underground nuclear waste repository in Carlsbad.
The repository has been closed since February because of a radiation release.
Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced Wednesday that they're urging Obama to present Congress with an amendment to his proposed budget.
The two New Mexico Democrats said Obama needs to ensure that there'll be funding to implement recommendations of investigative panels.
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.
The director of an organization that evaluated the WIPP site for over 25 years said officials aren’t doing enough to inform New Mexicans.
Dr. Bob Neill led the Environmental Evaluation Group, which provided independent technical evaluations of the WIPP project for more than two decades. He retired a year after the plant opened in 1999, and the group disbanded in 2004.
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.
The U.S. Department of Energy is eying two sites in Eddy County to store 10,000 metric tons of mercury (about 22 million pounds). A site in West Texas was DOE’s preferred storage spot, according to the Carlsbad Current-Argus. But now the federal agency is exploring two locations near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad.
Jody Knox, president of the Carlsbad Department of Development, said her board supports the proposal.