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US nuclear repository turns focus to maintenance projects

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CARLSBAD (AP) — Work to dispose of tons of radioactive waste from defense sites around the United States will be put on hold next month so maintenance can be done at the federal government's only underground nuclear waste repository.

Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant announced during a meeting Thursday that the three-week work stoppage will begin Jan. 7.

The maintenance will include work on electrical substations and the refurbishing of areas where waste is stored until it's taken below ground to be disposed of in rooms carved from an ancient salt formation.

The facility receives between five and 10 shipments weekly. That's not expected to increase much until a new $135 million ventilation system is installed.

Repository managers say they've made progress this year but that air quality remains an issue.