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Nuclear scientists from abroad converge for conference in Carlsbad via Current-Argus

Olivier Ravat was stunned by the Carlsbad community’s support for burying nuclear waste near the city.

The nuclear criticality engineer from Pelussin, France, said there would be protests in his home country should a project similar to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant be proposed.

Ravat and nuclear scientists from around the world converged this week in Carlsbad for the American Nuclear Society’s Nuclear Criticality Safety Division conference.

The event was held Monday through Friday, at the Pecos River Village Conference Center, mere miles from WIPP where transuranic waste is permanently emplaced in an underground salt mine.

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“(WIPP) is different for us because it’s salt, and it’s not reversible,” Cholvy said. “In France, they want it reversible.

“Everyone agrees we need to get rid of it, but not in their backyard.”

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Of about 100 participants at the conference, about 40 were from other nations, said Jef Lucchini, the event’s general chair and a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Visitors came from seven countries: France, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Germany, the Czech Republic and Canada.

They attended technical meetings to discuss safety protocols in the nuclear industry, and swap stories of past incidents that could be benefit the industry in the future.

WIPP was a continuous topic of discussion, as it resumed operations in January after halting operations in 2014 due to an accidental radiological release.

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From an office in an out-of-the-way building near the campus of New Mexico State University Carlsbad, scientists are constantly working to identify the impact of WIPP on the Earth and nearby residents.

The Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center hosted a table and presentation at the conference to raise awareness for the service it provides to the community in independently monitoring WIPP.

Jim Monk, manager of field programs at the center said residents are encouraged to come to the facility for radiation scans.

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Such services are offered free to anyone who lives within 100 miles of the WIPP site.

He said there was a spike in scan requests when WIPP opened in 1999, but requests have diminished over time.

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