Waste Isolation Pilot Plant back up and running

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CARLSBAD N.M. (KRQE) – For the first time in nearly three years the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad is back up and running, taking in nuclear waste again.

The plant closed down into 2014 after a radiation leak caused a big scare for miles around.

“It’s a very, very important project and everybody in the waste complex, the defense complex is very excited about it getting opened again,” said John Heaton, chairman of the mayor’s nuclear task force.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside of Carlsbad is placing nuclear waste underground for the first time since it was shut down in February of 2014 after a drum exploded, causing a radiation release.

Shipments of waste have been piling up at national laboratories and other defense sites around the country during the shutdown.

“Yesterday, some 28 drums were put down in the facility and I understand that is going on today as well,” Heaton said.

The Department of Energy gave WIPP the green light to re-open last month

“It’s off to a very good start, they’ve been through operational readiness reviews, three of those. And they’ve completed all their pre-start reviews, so here we are,” Heaton said.

He says staff has been working for almost three years to make sure the plant is as safe as possible.

“It’s a much more intense process and all the safety provisions are much more intense,” Heaton said.

People in the Carlsbad area are excited WIPP is back open

“I think it’s a good thing that they have it there, and it provides a lot of jobs for our area and hopefully it will continue to do so,” said Cecil Kellum, who lives in Roswell.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and other officials are scheduled to celebrate the reopening with a ribbon-cutting event Monday.

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