Department of Energy investigators have narrowed their focus to the contents of six transuranic waste containers destined for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, five of which were diverted to a site in Texas after a leak at WIPP in February.Quoting legislative testimony by the head of New Mexico's Environment Department Tuesday, the Albuquerque Journal reported that five containers from Los Alamos National Laboratory are being stored by Waste Control Specialists, which has buried suspect LANL waste to keep it temperature-stable. The other LANL container inside the WIPP repository in New Mexico is believed to be the source of a Feb. 14 radiation leak after a chemical reaction cracked its lid.A LANL spokesman speaking with the Santa Fe New Mexican acknowledged weaknesses in the lab's procedures related to changes in the material used to stabilize the waste. Researchers initially focused on a change from clay-based to organic kitty litter. Legislative testimony suggested the absorbent material provided fuel for the heat event that cracked the container but did not initiate the chemical reaction, which scientists so far have not been able to replicate. The other trait the six drums share is particularly acidic waste material from evaporators used in weapons development. Recently publicized emails show that LANL granted permission last summer for EnergySolutions to add a neutralizer to that waste that also held the potential for reactivity.
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