Put this in the strange but true department: This February, the Energy Department awarded Nuclear Waste Partnership--which operates the country’s only underground nuclear waste dump--a $1.9 million performance bonus for excellent work five days after a mining truck caught fire in the facility, the Albuquerque Journal reported yesterday in a story by Lauren Villagran.
The Nuclear Waste Partnership is a joint venture of URS Corp., the B&W Technical Services Group division of Babcock & Wilcox and AREVA Federal Services, owned by the government of France.
The bonus was paid Feb. 14, just before a radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, which stores 3.2 million cubic feet of plutonium-contaminated waste generated during the development and manufacturing of nuclear weapons by the Defense Department. The waste is stored in caverns carved out of salt 2,150 feet underground. WIPP has been closed since the fire and leak and may not accept any additional waste for storage for three years pending cleanup.
Following the yearlong safety and maintenance problems at WIPP, the bonus “looks to some like insult atop injury,” the Journal said, though the award was for work performed in 2013.
The Journal observed, since this year’s disasters, “No federal or contractor official has lost their job, been transferred, been moved off the WIPP contract or otherwise held accountable. No leadership has changed at the federal level. No company has lost a contract."