Top Science Journal: “Time bombs” at WIPP nuclear site? “High alert over risk of new explosions” in hundreds of plutonium-contaminated drums — AP: 4 years may be needed just to seal off area where drums stored — Experts go down to check if ground ‘still stable’ (VIDEO)

Published: May 31st, 2014 at 2:30 pm ET
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Nature, May 28, 2014: Nuclear-waste facility on high alert over risk of new explosions — US repository scrambles to seal off barrels [...] Time bombs may be ticking at the United States’ only deep geological repository for nuclear waste. US authorities concluded last week that at least 368 drums of waste at the site could be susceptible to the chemical reaction suspected to have caused a drum to rupture there in February. That accident caused radioactive material to spill into the repository and leak into the environment above ground. [...] To mitigate the threat of further exploding drums, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) in Santa Fe issued an order on 20 May giving the US Department of Energy [...] until 30 May to come up with a plan to “expedite” the sealing of panel 6 and part of panel 7. [A reaction] blew the lid off of the container [an official cautioned,] “It is not yet known how, or if, the reaction created the rupture in the drum(s)” [...] The DOE added that current assumptions and precautions about the hazards of operating the WIPP are being “evaluated and revised”.

AP, May 31, 2014: Feds say it could take years [...] to seal off hundreds of potentially dangerous containers at its troubled underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico, the U.S. Department of Energy said in a filing Friday. [...] the department gave broad ranges that indicate it could take a minimum of about 100 work weeks — and possibly twice that long — to secure the rooms at the now-shuttered plant where more than 350 containers of toxic waste from decades of building nuclear bombs at Los Alamos National Laboratory is stored. [...] A Department of Energy spokeswoman declined to comment on the estimated time frame [...] A canister shipped from Los Alamos to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project has been linked to the [Feb 14, 2014] release, and officials are investigating whether hundreds of other barrels from Los Alamos that are currently stored at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Los Alamos and in West Texas are at risk of releasing radiation. [...] There are still 57 barrels on the campus, which officials have repacked into special containers and are now storing under a dome with 24-hour monitoring and fire-protection systems.

DOE WIPP UPDATE (pdf), May 29, 2014: Geotechnical experts also conducted underground inspections at several locations to make sure the ground was still stable.

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Published: May 31st, 2014 at 2:30 pm ET
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