Failures at the Los Alamos National Laboratory caused the shutdown of the country’s only underground nuclear waste repository, according to a report by the inspector general of the US Department of Energy.
The audit report identified several major deficiencies with the lab’s procedures for the development and approval of waste packaging and remediation techniques. The waste generated at LANL included contaminated gloves, tools and other radiological wastes that would ultimately be sent for permanent storage at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Some of the lab’s procedures did not conform with environmental requirements, the report says.
The inspector general is particularly concerned that not all waste management procedures at LANL were properly vetted through the established procedure revision process nor did they conform to established environmental requirements. The inspector general’s office has called for immediate action to address these weaknesses before waste operations are resumed.
The report supports the findings of an internal review conducted by the lab and Energy Department after nuclear waste from Los Alamos leaked in a storage room in February at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The leak forced an indefinite closure of the nuclear waste repository and contaminated nearly two dozen workers.
Cleaning up the waste repository could cost more than $500 million and take as long as three years, AP reported.