It may be years before an underground nuclear waste dump in New Mexico shuttered by a radiation leak is fully operational, and costs for decontamination and other activities to restore the facility are not yet clear, Energy Department officials said.
A recovery plan is being crafted for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, but details are not expected to be finalized for weeks, Dana Bryson, the deputy manager of the Energy Department field office that oversees the dump, said during a public meeting last week.
He said the primary issue tied to a Feb. 14 radiation incident at the plant, managed by contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership, was that requirements for disposal were not met in materials shipped to the facility.
The head of the New Mexico Environment Department warned of “significant penalties” for the waste dump and Los Alamos for violations of state hazardous-waste permits.
The state was gathering information about the radiation release, the handling of radiological debris and other practices at Los Alamos to determine the extent of violations, a New Mexico Environment Department official said.
“Based on increasing information reported to the state from both sites, the state has already identified violations that could lead to penalties,” agency spokesman Jim Winchester said.