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Changes to Waste Isolation Pilot Plant could hide plan to expand this nuclear waste facility.

New Mexico weighs changes to permit for nuclear waste dump    CARLBAD, N.M. (AP) 23 May 21, — U.S. officials are pushing state regulators to clear the way for a new ventilation shaft to be built at the federal government’s nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico, but watchdog groups say modifying the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s permit to allow for the construction could open the door to expansion.

The state Environment Department’s Hazardous Waste Bureau held a virtual hearing over the past week to gather comments on the proposed permit change. A final decision is anticipated in mid-October.

Ventilation has been an issue since 2014, when a radiation release contaminated parts of the underground facility and forced an expensive, nearly three-year closure, delayed the federal government’s cleanup program and prompted policy changes at national laboratories and defense-related sites across the U.S.

Officials with the U.S. Energy Department have said the new shaft is needed to repair a “crippled” ventilation system, the Carlsbad Current-Argus newspaper reported………

The proposal is supported by leaders from the nearby city of Carlsbad, where many of the plant’s employees live.

……………… Cynthia Weehler, a Santa Fe resident and representative of activist group Stop Forever WIPP, argued the utility shaft was indicative of the Energy Department gradually expanding the repository using individual projects rather than proposing the overall goal of altering the facility’s mission to extend its lifetime.

She said that if New Mexico approves the permit, it would seem to be “colluding” with the Energy Department “to relabel a new mission and a future expansion.”

“It will lead us to an operation we didn’t consent to,” Weehler said.

May 24, 2021 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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