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Nuclear waste delayed.

The Department of Energy last week temporarily delayed shipments to the nation's first permanent repository for nuclear waste, thus avoiding an immediate showdown with the state of New Mexico, where the underground facility is located.

Energy secretary James D. Watkins had announced in early October that the $1 billion facility was ready to open and informed the state that initial shipments could arrive by October 10 (SN: 10/12/91, p.228). The day before that deadline, New Mexico filed suit in federal court, seeking to temporarily block shipments until Congress could pass a pending bill that specifies limits on the amount of waste the repository can store during a six-year testing phase. As New Mexico filed its suit, DOE decided to delay the initial shipments until a federal judge can rule on the state's case. Judge John G. Penn of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia scheduled a hearing for Nov. 15.

Located 653 meters below the desert surface near Carlsbad, the repository will hold radioactively contaminated waste, generated during the production of nuclear weapons. After completing the testing phase, the Energy Department must show the facility meets federal environmental regulations before filling the repository with 850,000 55-gallon drums of waste.
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Title Annotation:the Department of Energy's nuclear waste facility in New Mexico
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 19, 1991
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