recommended reading

New Mexico Lets Nuclear Waste Remain Above Ground After Radioactive Leak

Thomas Herbert/AP file photo

New Mexico has extended the time allowed for keeping atomic waste above ground after last month’s radioactive release at an underground repository.

The federally run Waste Isolation Pilot Plant remains closed following the February release of a small quantity of radiation from the subterranean dump. In the meantime, dozens of atomic waste-filled containers sent from other federal sites to the New Mexico repository for disposal are being left in the site's parking area and waste-handling facility, the Associated Press reported.

The WIPP facility, under its permit with the New Mexico government, is allowed to keep radioactive waste in the parking area for no more than a month and in the handling facility for no more than two months. However, since the repository remains closed, state environment officials are extending the two deadlines to give the U.S. Energy Department time to devise a plan for handling the nuclear waste in the future. The new thinking is based on the possibility that the underground portion of the facility might stay closed for more than three months, according to an administrative decision released on Monday.

Officials last week hinted it could be weeks before workers are allowed to return to the subterranean part of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, where at least 13 personnel were exposed to radioactive contaminants last month.

The New Mexico Environment Department is getting weekly updates regarding the status of the site, and has demanded that an inspection be carried out before operations at the nuclear facility are re-launched.

"To require them to begin to systematically ship particular waste units back to points of origin or back to particular locations in a rather expedited fashion was not the best thing as far as environmental health or human health in this instance," said Jeff Kendall, attorney for the Environment Department, explaining the department’s thinking in a phone interview with the wire service.

Officials have not yet ascertained what caused the leak of radioactive elements.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.