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Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) still not open, and USA’s toxic nuclear waste mounts

wastes-1Flag-USAChanging nuclear landscape alters WIPP’s role  Local News Santa Fe  Apr 10, 2016. By Rebecca Moss The New Mexican “………
Don Hancock of the Southwest Research and Information Center, a nuclear safety watchdog group, said more environmental assessments under the National Environmental Policy Act need to be conducted to assess WIPP’s capacity or ability to handle additional plutonium.

“There is more of that waste in existence than there is room at WIPP,” Hancock said. “Insofar as they want to bring in foreign plutonium, they have to get the law changed.”

He said Japan’s civilian plutonium would be in direct violation of the Land Withdrawal Act’s stipulation that the waste stored at WIPP come from U.S. defense activities.

The Land Withdrawal Act states: “The Secretary shall not transport high-level radioactive waste or spent nuclear fuel to WIPP or emplace or dispose of such waste or fuel at WIPP.”

“Geological repositories kind of win by default. If the decision is to put it in the ground, then it could be done someplace else,” Hancock said.

“We the public were always told, ‘Oh no, none of this prohibited materials — ignitable, reactive, potential explodable materials — will ever come to WIPP. We are not allowed to ship those ignitable, reactive [materials]. We have lots of safeguards so that will never happen,’ ” Hancock said, adding, that has been proven wrong.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said in a statement that the future of MOX and what that will mean for New Mexico are questions that should be rigorously considered by Congress. He said it is likely “this debate will continue into the next administration.”

“My understanding is that the amount of defense waste in South Carolina likely would require an expansion at WIPP and a change in its total radiation limits, which are set by law,” he said. “And that is not a small issue to address.”

Before the diluted plutonium in South Carolina can be transported to WIPP, he said, an environmental assessment, public comment and an agreement from the state of New Mexico should occur.

Many “ifs” exist regarding the safety of the waste and the remaining capacity at WIPP, he said. If the waste is transported, he said, New Mexico should be compensated and workers trained to deal with a radiological emergency.

“We shouldn’t talk about new missions for WIPP until it’s open,” he said. “And until we know that it will be able to safely complete its current mission.”

April 11, 2016 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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