After a three year hiatus due to a radiation leak that triggered a multi-billion dollar clean up and policy changes, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant underground repository in southeastern New Mexico is taking shipments of nuclear waste again.
The February 2014 leak was blamed on an improperly packed drum of waste. It took until December 2016 for normal operations to resume at the repository – the county's only underground facility for radioactive waste – but shipments did not resume until this week.
As a truck arrived from a federal facility in Idaho, the driver honked the horn as it went through the front gate and workers cheered, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
“To see shipments arriving at WIPP is celebrated not only by the WIPP workfoced and the Carlsbad community, but also by our Department of Energy host communities that support the critical missions of the department,” said DOE's Todd Shrader, head of the agency's field office in Calsbad.
The repository is scheduled for two shipments a week, which will increase to twice that number by the end of the year. Shipments will arrive from the national laboratory in Idaho, Savannah River in South Carolina and from Waste Control Specialists in Texas.
Despite the cleanup, procedures are more strident and work slower than prior to the leak. Workers must now use protective clothing, respirators and radiation detection devices they did not use before the leak, AP reported.
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