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Nuclear repository working to address post-start findings

CARLSBAD, N.M. — The U.S. Energy Department expects the remaining corrective actions needed at the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository to be completed early this year.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant resumed some operations at the end of December following a final review by a team of agency inspectors. Their work resulted in 36 findings, most of which were addressed before the plant reopened since they could affect worker safety.

A 2014 radiation release in one of the underground storage vaults forced the facility to close, spurring a nearly three-year, multimillion-dollar recovery effort.

Of the remaining findings to be addressed as operations ramp up, 10 issues still need to be corrected, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported (

The Energy Department’s Carlsbad Field Office said corrective action plans have been developed and are being implemented. The cases are expected to be closed within a couple of months.

The work includes obtaining more spare parts for the interim ventilation system, providing training to certain employees and hiring additional workers.

Six post-start findings pertained to the Energy Department and its Carlsbad Field Office. Many of those were administrative in nature, having to do with the processes involved in tracking issues at the facility.

The radiation release stemmed from a chemical reaction inside a barrel of waste that was inappropriately packed at Los Alamos National Laboratory before it was shipped to the repository. The incident stalled the nation’s multibillion-dollar cleanup program and raised questions about oversight across the nuclear complex.

Since the start of the year, workers at the repository have been transferring waste that was stored above ground during the closure into the underground disposal vaults.

Shipments of waste from other sites around the nation have yet to resume.

The waste includes gloves, tools, clothing and other materials from decades of bomb-making and research.


Information from: Carlsbad Current-Argus,