The U.S. Department of Energy has acknowledged that multiple shipments or radioactive waste from the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee over a five-year period had been shipped to a federal storage in Nevada that were incorrectly labeled.
DOE spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said the shipments were “mischaracterized.” Of immediate concern, according to Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s office is whether or not the shipments contained “mixed, low-level nuclear waste,” as opposed to low-level nuclear waste, which includes contaminated worker’s clothing and equipment. “Mixed,” low-level waste, however, also includes toxic metals. In May, the state of Nevada settled a case with the DOE over shipments to the same facility north of Las Vegas that also involved toxic levels of chromium, a highly carcinogenic substance in some forms.
The concerns have prompted scathing rebukes from Nevada’s congressional democrats, some of whom have called for DOE Secretary Rick Perry’s immediate resignation.
“The level of incompetence at the Doe is only matched by its dishonesty,” Time Magazine quoted Rep. Dina Titus as saying.
There are conflicting reports on how many shipments are involved. Gov. Sisolak’s office was first informed there were 32 shipments of canisters that began in 2013 and ended in December 2018. The DOE, however, has issued a correction, saying that 32 canisters in six shipments were “mischaracterized.”
Shipments from Oak Ridge to Nevada have been suspended while the DOE investigates the matter.
A memo from Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette has ordered an investigation into the department’s “procedures and practices for packaging and shipping all radioactive waste types.”
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