Pedantic semantics?

Carlsbad Mayor’s Nuclear Task Force: ‘Dump’ still not the right word for WIPP

We’ve all relied heavily on media coverage of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s February fire and radiological incidents. We hope that everyone receives all available information regarding what happened, why, and the condition of the workers. We sincerely appreciate the assistance with transparency provided by responsible members of the media.

As a valuable source of information for the public, the words the media uses in its coverage are very important. So while this might seem like a minor quibble, we would suggest that The Associated Press and other media outlets refrain from calling WIPP a “dump.”

WIPP is one of the most sophisticated engineering projects in the world, and it is the product of decades of scientific research. These facts are not changed by the February incidents.

Traditionally, “dump” has been used to describe an above-ground landfill, which WIPP is not. A city landfill and an underground nuclear waste repository are not the same thing, and it is misleading to use words that imply that they are. In fact, we no longer typically even use “dump” to describe “landfill” because that is also not accurate.

Additionally, it is our hope that all media outlets would report objectively and avoid spin of any sort – positive or negative. “Dump” is a loaded word, with very negative connotations.

Everyone knows what it means when someone says, “What a dump.” Whether a reporter intends it or not, use of the term indicates a negative opinion about the project.

We understand that especially with headline limitations and deadline pressures, once a term is used, it is easy to repeat it in successive stories, but we hope that the media would seek alternatives for future coverage, such as an “underground nuclear waste facility,” or “repository”.

This editorial first appeared in The Nuclear Nexus, a publication put out by the Carlsbad Mayor’s Nuclear Task Force. The full version may be read at:

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