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Nuclear waste still coming to Andrews as WIPP investigation continues

Published: Apr. 10, 2014 at 7:57 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The investigation continues into a radiation leak at a nuclear waste plant in New Mexico. This week, the Environmental Protection Agency will send crews to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside of Carlsbad, NM.

They'll be installing more air monitors. The monitors will be placed near existing monitors owned by the plant to provide independent results. EPA workers will also consider whether additional monitoring sites are needed.

You'll remember, the plant stopped operations in February after reporting the radiation leak. Now, nuclear waste scheduled to be held there is being temporarily stored at Waste Control Specialists in Andrews County, TX. That site is about two hours southwest of Lubbock.

To date, the Andrews facility has received and processed seven shipments of defense-generated transuranic waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines transuranic waste as material contaminated with transuranic elements - artificially made, radioactive elements, such as neptunium, plutonium, americium, and others - that have atomic numbers higher than uranium in the periodic table of elements. Transuranic waste is primarily produced from recycling spent fuel or using plutonium to fabricate nuclear weapons.

According to a release from the U.S. Department of Energy's Carlsbad Field Office, plans include completing up to 10 shipments per week to WCS. All shipments are using WIPP's transportation protocols and procedures, and all waste meets WCS permit requirements and WIPP waste acceptance criteria.

The transuranic waste will be returned to WIPP for disposal after the site reopens.

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