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Nuclear waste plans blocked.

A federal district judge last week issued a permanent injunction blocking the Department of Energy's (DOE's) plans to begin shipping nuclear waste to an underground storage facility in southeastern New Mexico. Judge John Garrett Penn ruled that DOE must obtain authorization from both Congress and the state of New Mexico before opening the $1 billion Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

Last October, after years of delays, the department said it would start placing waste in WIPP, but New Mexico won a preliminary injunction preventing the waste shipments (SN: 1/18/92, p.44). In last week's decision, Judge Penn ruled that DOE had not properly assumed control of the WIPP site from the Interior Department. In effect, the decision requires that DOE seek a congressional land transfer. The judge also ruled that DOE must obtain a hazardous waste permit from New Mexico, because the waste contains both hazardous and radioactive materials generated during nuclear bomb production.

Such requirements would significantly delay WIPP's opening. New Mexico sill require at least a year, and perhaps two years, to evaluate DOE's permit request, says Kay Roybal, a spokeswoman for New Mexico Attorney General Tom Udall. DOE plans to appeal the federal court's decision.
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Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Feb 15, 1992
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