US nuclear repository marks 200+ shipments of waste in 2021

Politics - Government

FILE – In this March 1999 file photo, the first load of nuclear waste arrives at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) site in Carlsbad, N.M., from Los Alamos National Laboratory. The U.S. government’s efforts to clean up decades worth of Cold War-era waste from nuclear research and bomb making at federal sites around the country has chugged along, often at a pace that watchdogs and other critics say threatens public health and the environment. Now, fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic is resulting in more challenges as WIPP, the nation’s only underground repository for nuclear waste, finished ramping down operations Wednesday, April 1, 2020, to keep workers safe. (AP Photo/Thomas Herbert, File)

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) – The U.S. government’s underground nuclear waste repository received more than 200 shipments from federal laboratories and other sites around the nation in 2021.

Officials with the U.S. Energy Department announced the number Thursday, noting that total shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant have topped 13,000 since opening in 1999.

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They also said progress was made over the past year on a new ventilation system and a utility shaft that will provide more air to the underground space at the southern New Mexico site. An important hoist used to remove salt mined also received a facelift that included resurfacing and repainting the 100-foot tall metal structure.

Over more than 20 years, tons of Cold War-era waste have been stashed deep in the salt caverns that make up the repository. The shipments have included special boxes and barrels packed with lab coats, rubber gloves, tools and debris contaminated with plutonium and other radioactive elements.

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