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DOE unveils WIPP plan

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By The Staff

Shipments of plutonium-contaminated waste to the federal government’s troubled nuclear dump site in southeastern New Mexico may resume as early as 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy said in announcing that the agency is committed to cleaning up the facility after a shutdown in February.
A recovery plan developed by the department over several months with help from nuclear industry experts details what needs to be done to decontaminate the underground Waste Isolation Pilot Plant after a truck fire and an unrelated release of radiation contaminated 22 workers and forced the site’s closure.
Mark Whitney, acting assistant secretary for the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management, said Tuesday that officials estimate that 90 percent or more of the nuclear waste dump is free of radiological contamination. But the ventilation system will need to be improved and a new exhaust shaft constructed before full operations can resume, Whitney said. That could take as long as three years and as much as an additional $309 million.


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