RICHLAND, Wash.: Federal officials are looking to ship some 3 million gallons of radioactive waste from Washington state to New Mexico, giving the government more flexibility to deal with leaking tanks at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, officials said Wednesday.
The Department of Energy said its preferred plan would ultimately dispose of the waste in a massive repository — called the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant — near Carlsbad, N.M, where radioactive materials are buried in rooms excavated in vast salt beds nearly a half-mile underground.
Critics of the federal proposal said the state permit allowing the government to bury waste at the New Mexico plant would not allow for Hanford shipments.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said WIPP specifically prohibits waste from Hanford and any proposal to modify permit language in this case would need “strong justification and public input.”
In a letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee about federal budget cuts, the Department of Energy estimated it will have to eliminate $92 million for its Office of River Protection, which oversees efforts to empty the tanks and build a plant to treat the waste. The U.S. government spends some $2 billion each year on cleanup at Hanford, the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site.