New Mexico Senators Seek More Funds for Atomic Burial Ground

New Mexico lawmakers are seeking funds for changes at a nuclear-waste site paralyzed by a February leak, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.

Senators Martin Heinrich (D) and Tom Udall (D) called on President Obama to increase his proposed $220.5 million budget for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, the newspaper reported on Tuesday. The Energy Department has tentatively tied a container rupture at the repository to the February radiation release that spread contaminants to 22 workers and forced personnel to vacate much of the site.

The facility "is likely to require recovery spending in [fiscal 2016] and we urge you to give consideration to the extra amounts needed to restore full operations at WIPP," Heinrich and Udall said in a written communication to Obama on Monday.

"The preliminary report on the release laid out a number of changes in design and operation at WIPP that must be made, and once the cause of the release is identified, there is going to be a lot of work to do to return to operation."

Udall separately linked his push for more money to a focus on preventing further accidents at the repository.

"The safety of the community and the workers is paramount," he said.

It remains unclear how much remediation activities at the waste facility could cost. An Energy Department source last week said possible expenses had been under examination within government circles, but personnel had yet to officially call for additional funds.

Senate Appropriations Committee insiders said lawmakers plan to begin work on spending legislation in one or two months, creating a high likelihood that the Obama administration would submit any supplementary funding request for the site in the next several weeks.

June 4, 2014
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New Mexico lawmakers are seeking funds for changes at a nuclear-waste site paralyzed by a February leak, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.

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