CARLSBAD, N.M. — Routine operations have resumed at the U.S. government’s only underground nuclear waste repository following an evacuation in May that was prompted by the discovery of a misaligned drum of waste.
Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico confirmed this week that processing and handling resumed June 2.
In disposing the waste, seven 55-gallon (208-liter) drums are wrapped together in a tight formation to go deep inside the ancient salt formation where the repository is located. The idea is that the shifting salt will eventually entomb the waste.
At the Savannah River Site, the future of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility is in jeopardy after a report last month by the National Nuclear Safety Administration recommended the facility be repurposed to produce plutonium pits while also maximizing pit production activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
The MOX project arose from an agreement between the U.S. and Russia to dispose of 68 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium. The material would be enough to create about 17,000 nuclear weapons. But the project has been beset by years of delays and cost overruns, over which the state has several times sued the federal government.
South Carolina’s legislators said the plan to re-purpose the MOX facility is premature considering shipment of diluted plutonium to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant hasn’t been fully vetted.
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