Los Alamos Scours U.S. Nuclear-Waste Options After Burial Site's Closure

Workers in Idaho handle transuranic nuclear waste slated for shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. The Los Alamos National Laboratory on Tuesday said it is considering potential alternative destinations for radioactive waste following the New Mexico storage site's recent closure.
Workers in Idaho handle transuranic nuclear waste slated for shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. The Los Alamos National Laboratory on Tuesday said it is considering potential alternative destinations for radioactive waste following the New Mexico storage site's recent closure. (U.S. Energy Department photo)

A U.S. nuclear-arms lab is seeking new potential destinations for its radioactive waste following a key storage site's closure, the Associated Press reports.

To prepare for the possibility that the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico will remain inaccessible due to radioactive contamination, Los Alamos National Laboratory is examining where else it could deliver the final shipments of a waste cache slated for removal by June, lab spokesman Matthew Nerzig said on Tuesday.

The nuclear detritus came under threat from wildfires in 2011 -- when it was held in relatively exposed outdoor areas at Los Alamos -- and the New Mexico laboratory pledged to rid itself of the material by the middle of this year. It was closing in on that goal when the burial facility -- located in the state's southeast corner -- was shuttered last month following the detection of escaped radioactive particles.

"We are determined to complete the campaign on time and meet our obligations to the state of New Mexico," Nerzig stated. "Toward that end, we are evaluating options to minimize any adverse impact of the WIPP event on LANL and other transuranic waste-generator sites."

The spokesman provided no details on other possible storage locations.

Don Hancock, head of nuclear-waste safety at the Southwest Research and Information Center environmental group, said short-term options for holding the waste could include the Idaho National Laboratory or other U.S. government locations.

March 12, 2014
About

A U.S. nuclear-arms lab is seeking new potential destinations for its radioactive waste following a key storage site's closure, the Associated Press reports.

Countries