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Feds Could Ship High-Grade Plutonium To WIPP

DOE Photo
Creative Commons

The U.S. Department of Energy is hoping to send tons of weapons-grade plutonium waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, near Carlsbad.

The DOE says its plan is to ship almost seven tons of nuclear waste from a processing plant in South Carolina to New Mexico. The plan has drawn criticism from activists and researchers.

"None of this waste was ever supposed to go to WIPP. None of this waste actually fits into WIPP," said Don Hancock of the Southwest Research and Information Center. "In addition, some of this waste, at least, is clearly prohibited by law. Some of this waste is foreign civilian waste, and WIPP is for U.S. defense or military waste."

WIPP has been closed since a fire broke out and radiation leaked from the facility in 2014, and the New Mexico Environment Department hasn’t reviewed the plan yet. NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn told the Albuquerque Journal the department would consider the plan, but more pressing issues need to be addressed at WIPP first.

Correction: This story has been corrected to show that it's the Southwest Research and Information Center, not the Southwest Information and Research Center. 

Ed Williams came to KUNM in 2014 by way of Carbondale, Colorado, where he worked as a public radio reporter covering environmental issues. Originally from Austin, Texas, Ed has reported on environmental, social justice, immigration and Native American issues in the U.S. and Latin America for the Austin American-Statesman, Z Magazine, NPR’s Latino USA and others. In his spare time, look for Ed riding his mountain bike in the Sandias or sparring on the jiu-jitsu mat.
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