SANTA FE – The federal Department of Energy is taking the position that any state fines it pays for a radioactive leak at the nation’s nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad will come from money appropriated to clean up decades’ worth of contamination from nuclear weapons work in New Mexico.
“Any fines and penalties assessed on the EM (environmental management) program would be provided by cleanup dollars, resulting in reduced funding for cleanup activities,” says a 2016 budget year summary presented earlier this month by the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management.
The New Mexico Environment Department has fined the DOE $54 million for the leak from a drum of radioactive waste processed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The drum ruptured in February 2014 and has shut down the underground Waste Isolation Pilot Project, halting delivery of waste from Los Alamos and other weapons complex sites to the underground facility.
Under the DOE’s stance, the $185 million that LANL is budgeted to receive for fiscal year 2016 for cleanup of radioactive and hazardous waste would be reduced by the $37 million in fines that the state wants for LANL’s role in the WIPP leak. NMED has also fined WIPP $17 million.