recommended reading

New Mexico Sees 'Imminent' Danger From Nuclear-Waste Barrels

Los Alamos National Laboratory technicians repackage nuclear waste in 2011 for shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico in 2011.

Los Alamos National Laboratory technicians repackage nuclear waste in 2011 for shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico in 2011. // United Stated Department of Energy file photo

New Mexico's government said dozens of nuclear-waste drums may pose an "imminent" and "substantial" danger to residents, the Associated Press reports.

New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn gave Los Alamos National Laboratory until Wednesday to propose steps for locking down the 57 barrels, which it packed using materials tied to a burst container in an underground area of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad. The Energy Department has linked the breakage to a February radiation release that spread contaminants to 22 workers and forced personnel to vacate much of the repository.

A significant number of the problematic drums may be outside, either at the nuclear-weapons laboratory or a short-term holding location in Andrews, Texas. A pair of the barrels were transferred into underground holding areas of the waste storage site prior to the February radiation leak, Flynn indicated in an order on Monday.

He said data supplied to his agency suggests that "the current handling, storage, treatment and transportation of the hazardous nitrate salt-bearing waste containers at [Los Alamos] may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment."

The laboratory said it is committed to mitigating any danger from the containers, which it prepared using a cat-litter and nitrate-salt mixture believed to have generated heat and ruptured the barrel at the waste storage facility.

Los Alamos personnel have placed the waste drums in additional packaging and moved them into housing with countermeasures against possible fires, the Los Alamos facility said in released comments. The laboratory said it is also watching the containers for possible heat increases.

Meanwhile, investigators are seeking to determine if the problematic packaging was linked to recent transition from inorganic cat litter to an organic version of the material, which is incorporated in the packing as an absorbent.

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.