WIPP sells tons of excavated salt to Texas

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Hundreds of tons are destined for cattle feed

By Sue M. Holmes

ALBUQUEREQUE — Hundreds of tons of salt excavated from the Department of Energy’s underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico are destined for cattle feed in Texas.

The DOE’s Carlsbad field office has reached an agreement with Magnum Minerals LLC of Hereford, Texas, which will buy up to 300,000 tons of salt from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, known as WIPP.

Magnum Minerals has contracted for $600,000 worth of salt, most of which will go into cattle feed, company president Tim Gearn said. Cattle feed is required to have certain minerals, including salt.

It’s the first such sale from WIPP, which eventually will have to get rid of the salt that’s excavated for waste disposal rooms, said Vernon Daub, deputy manager of the field office. WIPP, which opened in March 1999, has an expected 35-year lifespan.

Rooms to store waste will continue to be excavated as needed in the ancient salt beds 2,150 feet below the New Mexico desert. WIPP eventually is expected to receive about 38,000 shipments from DOE sites around the country.

The DOE has estimated it would cost $15 per ton to haul the salt to a municipal landfill, Daub said.

Daub could not say how much salt already has been excavated, but said there will be plenty to fulfill the contract.

WIPP buries defense-related waste such as protective clothing and tools, largely contaminated with plutonium, which remains radioactive for tens of thousands of years.

Currently, excavated salt from the storage rooms is stored at the WIPP site east of Carlsbad.