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WIPP operations resume after ‘misaligned’ drum found

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Disposal of radioactive waste at southeast New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant resumed on Saturday after a May 24 incident involving a “misaligned” waste container prompted an evacuation and suspension of some underground operations.

Drums of waste at WIPP are often packaged in a seven-drum configuration. (Source: WIPP)

“Our employees did a great job of safely working the recovery plan to get us back into operations,” said Todd Shrader, the Department of Energy’s Carlsbad Field Office Manager, in a Wednesday news release. “Everyone involved, from the individuals who identified the misaligned drum to those developing and executing the recovery plan, should be commended.”

The container in question was bundled with six other waste-laden drums when it was observed by workers to be tilted out of place, leading to the evacuation of the underground and activation of the facility’s Emergency Operations Center, which was deactivated later that night.

No radioactive releases or injuries occurred, officials said.

The recovery plan approved May 29 involved disassembling then repackaging the seven-pack of drums together.

They were then emplaced in an underground room late last week.

“Additional transportation containers are being processed today and waste packages will be downloaded this evening,” the news release read.

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