WIPP One Step Closer to Reopening

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) outside of Carlsbad, New Mexico is the nation’s only underground nuclear waste facility. It was shut down in February 2014 when an inappropriately packed container of waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory ruptured and workers were unable to properly use their emergency oxygen supplies. An article by Maddy Hayden says the Department of Energy (DOE) has approved a new Documented Safety Analysis, which took a year and 100,000 man hours to create. Federal officials predict that there is an 80 percent chance approval of that document will allow the facility to reopen in December. Perhaps the prediction should be viewed skeptically. The DOE had predicted the facility would be reopened in March when they “…knew it had only a 1 percent chance of meeting that March 2016 deadline.”

The costs for the reopening the facility are staggering. “The Energy Department initially estimated it would cost $242 million to restore WIPP for limited waste disposal and an additional $77 million to install a new ventilation system critical to providing clean air to workers.” “The delays led to an additional $61.4 million in operating costs at WIPP.”

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