Gov. Bill Richardson “Weapons grade plutonium at WIPP is a bad idea”

New Mexicans and anyone else who cares about the safe reopening of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad should be concerned about recent reports of plans to move tons of dangerous nuclear weapons-grade plutonium to WIPP, and overwhelm WIPP’s capability to clean up Cold War waste from sites in Washington, Idaho and elsewhere.

This is not a good idea for a variety of reasons, but mainly that WIPP is not suitable to be a high-level waste dump and New Mexico has done its share of accepting nuclear waste.

By now, most people are aware that there is no firm and verified reopening date for WIPP, the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository. WIPP has been closed since February 2014, first because a truck caught fire, and then a container drum burst underground, releasing radioactivity to the surface.

As a congressman, I opposed White House efforts to administratively withdraw public land for WIPP. In 1992, we passed the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act which provided for both safety standards and a mission restricted to low level waste.

WIPP opened 16 years ago with my approval as secretary of energy, but only to accept low-level defense “transuranic waste,” or TRU, which is mainly contaminated gloves, tools, rags, assorted machinery and sludge.

Since its opening, WIPP has fulfilled its purpose and the towns of Carlsbad and Hobbs have been responsible and worthy stewards. To shoulder WIPP with a highly charged new role makes no sense at a time when WIPP needs to fix its current problems[…]”

Read the full article here:  Las Cruces Sun-News

Bill Richardson is a former two-term governor of New Mexico and served as secretary of energy and ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration.

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