Santa Fe New Mexican
U.S. Department of Energy officials say they have conducted numerous safety assessments of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad since a nuclear waste drum burst there Feb. 14. But none of those assessments has been made public, even as the plant’s operators send growing numbers of workers back into the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository.
Officials with the Energy Department and Nuclear Waste Partnership, the private consortium that operates the repository, say they are taking abundant precautions to ensure their workers and the public are safe.
But emails and documents obtained by The New Mexican describing safety assessments in May, June and July raise questions about the stability of dozens of other nuclear waste drums that were in the same chamber as the drum that ruptured. More recent WIPP safety assessments have not been released, even to the union representing more than 300 WIPP workers…
…The partnership and the Department of Energy say they have conducted frequent safety analyses since the assessments described in the emails obtained by the newspaper. But despite frequent community meetings in Carlsbad that are broadcast on the Internet and a raft of documents posted online since the February incident, the Energy Department and its contractor at WIPP have not publicly shared the safety evaluations, known as Evaluation of the Safety of the Situation, or ESS, according to Hancock.
“We need more than them just saying, ‘Oh, it’s all OK,’ ” Hancock said. “They should put out written, technical information to support their position. We do know that this is an active concern they had in June. Four and a half months later, you should have lots of additional paper. Put it out. It’s obvious at this point that we can’t trust them.”