New Mexico is vetting federal plans for dealing with atomic-waste barrels containing a potentially corrosive absorbent, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.
State environmental regulators on Wednesday received a proposal from Los Alamos National Laboratory for handling 86 storage drums on its premises. Those barrels are among hundreds now thought to be at risk of breaking open, following a rupture in one container at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.
"We are conducting a thorough technical review of their ongoing efforts to secure nitrate salt-bearing waste containers,” New Mexico Environment Department spokesman Jim Winchester said.
He did not suggest when a determination may come on endorsing the proposal, submitted in line with a Monday instruction from New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn. The strategy calls for separating, protecting, supervising and occasionally applying countermeasures to the dozens of waste barrels still at Los Alamos.
Laboratory officials told the state they have sequestered the 55-gallon storage drums and subjected them to a continuous surveillance regime, the Associated Press reported. The barrels of concern are packed with a cat-litter mixture tied to the escape of radioactive contaminants earlier this year in an underground area of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
"Los Alamos is committed to securing and isolating this waste while we continue to investigate the cause of the February release," the laboratory said in prepared comments.
More than 100 additional problematic containers are being held at surface level, inside a commercial site at Andrews, Texas.