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Scientists: Capacity at US nuclear waste dump a challenge

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ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The lack of space at the federal government's only underground nuclear waste repository is among several challenges identified Friday by a group of scientists and other experts who are looking at the viability of disposing tons of weapons-grade plutonium at the desert location.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a preliminary report on the U.S. government's plan, which calls for diluting 34 metric tons of plutonium and shipping it to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico.

The purpose of the work would be to satisfy a nonproliferation agreement with Russia.

Another challenge, the scientists say, would be getting officials in that country to approve of the dilution of the materials.

The pact between the two countries was initially based on a proposal for turning the surplus plutonium into fuel that could be used for commercial nuclear reactors. That project, beset by years of delays and cost overruns, was cancelled earlier this year.

The review of the plan that calls for shipping the plutonium to New Mexico was requested by Congress. A final report from the National Academies is expected next summer.


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