Emissions, Waste Management & Decommissioning

N.M. wants WIPP nuclear waste storage areas closed

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) issued an Administrative Order for the Department of Energy (DOE) and Nuclear Waste Partnership to close two underground storage areas at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

The department asked for increased precautions for the storage of nitrate salt-bearing waste containers at both WIPP and the Los Alamos National Laboratory based on walk-throughs recently performed at WIPP. Based on a May 15 visual inspection, DOE noted some of the transuranic mixed waste containers showed obvious signs of damage that could have led to the radiological release on Feb. 14.

“As soon as DOE suspected that a container with nitrate salt mixed with organic kitty litter may have been the source of the release, the Environment Department required DOE to take immediate action to isolate and secure all nitrate salt bearing waste containers at WIPP, LANL and WCS,” said NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn in a statement.

The area in question, Panel 7, Room 7, contains 55 nitrate salt-bearing waste containers. DOE said re-entry teams are investigating how the magnesium oxide bags were damaged underground and whether a Feb. 7 salt truck fire could have potentially affected the containers.

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