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The Latest: Watchdogs call for review of nuke dump proposal

November 23, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Latest on the federal government’s shuttered nuclear waste repository (all times local):

9:15 a.m.

Watchdogs are calling on U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to follow federal environmental laws as his agency works to reopen the government’s troubled nuclear waste repository in southeastern New Mexico.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Southwest Research and Information Center sent Moniz a letter this week, saying there has been no public process under the National Environmental Policy Act with regards to the proposal for resuming operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

A radiation release forced the repository’s closure in February 2014.

Moniz has said repeatedly that reopening WIPP is a top priority.

The groups are asking for a broad environmental review that would look at everything from corrective action plans to the potential effects of another catastrophic incident. They contend the department hasn’t looked at alternatives as required by law.

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3 a.m.

New Mexico regulators are now considering a proposal by the U.S. Department of Energy to close part of the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository due to safety and contamination concerns.

The plan was first announced in October but officials with the New Mexico Environment Department confirmed this week that they recently received the federal government’s written request.

It’s unclear when a decision will be made.

State regulators must also conduct a site inspection in the coming weeks as the federal government looks to reopen the troubled facility.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has been closed since February 2014. A chemical reaction inside an inappropriately packed drum of waste triggered a radiation release.

The incident resulted in an overhaul of policies and procedures, contract penalties and a multimillion-dollar settlement with the state of New Mexico.