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Los Alamos National Laboratory won’t be able to meet a deadline for getting toxic waste from decades of building nuclear bombs off its northern New Mexico campus before wildfire season peaks, the U.S. Department of Energy said Friday.
In a statement, the department said it has notified the New Mexico Environment Department that it can’t move the last of thousands of barrels of waste containing things like contaminated gloves and tools until officials are sure it is safe.
A canister shipped from Los Alamos to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project has been linked to a radiation release Feb. 14 at the underground repository in southeastern New Mexico. Officials are investigating whether hundreds of other barrels from Los Alamos that are currently stored at the West Isolation Pilot Plant, Los Alamos and in West Texas are at risk of releasing radiation.
The waste was packed with cat litter to absorb moisture. Officials are trying to determine whether a switch from inorganic to organic litter is to blame for a chemical reaction with nitrate salts that caused the accident that contaminated 22 workers and indefinitely shuttered the plant.
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