DOE: WIPP could be closed for three years

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By The Staff


The head of the recovery effort at the federal government’s nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico said late last week it could be up to three years before full operations resume at the underground facility.

Recovery manager Jim Blankenhorn made the announcement when answering questions from the public during a weekly meeting in Carlsbad. He said the timeline continues to be a moving target, but full operations are expected to resume no earlier than 18 months from now.

Crews continue investigating the cause of a radiation release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad that exposed some workers and halted operations in February.

Specially trained workers have been making trips into the repository in an effort to pinpoint the source of the release. Based on those trips, the focus has turned to a set of waste drums that came from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Officials at the meeting reiterated the possibility that there may have been a chemical reaction inside the drums. They were then questioned about what would happen to that waste if it’s deemed unsafe to store.