Nuclear Repository Shutdown Causing Waste Buildup at Weapon Sites

The continued closure of an underground atomic repository in New Mexico is causing a buildup of radioactive waste at U.S. weapon sites across the country.

The federally managed Waste Isolation Pilot Plant was closed last month following a small radiation release from the site, which has prompted nuclear waste-filled containers to accumulate at the above-ground portions of the facility. Waste storage is also growing at dozens of current and former nuclear weapon-related sites in the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday.

Energy Department officials said they could not forecast when the subterranean repository would be reopened or what the final price tag would be for clean-up following the incident, which involved the leak of some stored plutonium and americium into underground tunnels -- and then into the environment.

"We will not know the duration of the shutdown or the related impacts until after we have safely reentered the underground facility and have completed the investigation," the department said in a statement to the Times. "DOE is working with [waste] generator sites and analyzing options to minimize the impact of the WIPP event on other sites."

March 5, 2014
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The continued closure of an underground atomic repository in New Mexico is causing a buildup of radioactive waste at U.S. weapon sites across the country.

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