State OKs re­open­ing trou­bled nu­clear waste repos­i­tory

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION -

ALBUQUERQUE | New Mex­ico reg­u­la­tors have ap­proved res­tart­ing nor­mal oper­a­tions at the nation’s only un­der­ground nu­clear waste repos­i­tory, a ma­jor step for U.S. of­fi­cials aiming to re­open the fa­cil­ity nearly three years af­ter a ra­di­a­tion leak shut it down in­def­i­nitely.

Two let­ters ob­tained Thurs­day by The As­so­ci­ated Press out­line the state En­vi­ron­ment Depart­ment’s find­ings from a re­cent in­spec­tion of the Waste

Iso­la­tion Pi­lot Plant. Reg­u­la­tors found two mi­nor per­mit vi­o­la­tions but said those were ad­dressed im­me­di­ately.

The site run by the U.S. Depart­ment of En­ergy has been closed since a ra­di­a­tion release in Fe­bru­ary 2014 con­tam­i­nated much of the un­der­ground dis­posal area. The leak stemmed from a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion in­side a con­tainer of waste.

The shut­down halted the ship­ment of tons of Cold War-era waste from sites across the coun­try, com­pro­mis­ing the gov­ern­ment’s multi­bil­lion-dol­lar cleanup cam­paign and re­sult­ing in an over­haul of poli­cies and pro­ce­dures across the nu­clear com­plex.

The price tag for mit­i­gat­ing the con­tam­i­na­tion at the site in south­east­ern New Mex­ico is ex­pected to ex­ceed a half-bil­lion dol­lars, which does not in­clude costs stem­ming from a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar set­tle­ment with the state for nu­mer­ous per­mit vi­o­la­tions.

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