Appeal: New Mexico ignored rules in OK of nuke site work

New Mexico

FILE – In this March 1999 file photo, the first load of nuclear waste arrives at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) site in Carlsbad, N.M., from Los Alamos National Laboratory. The U.S. government’s efforts to clean up decades worth of Cold War-era waste from nuclear research and bomb making at federal sites around the country has chugged along, often at a pace that watchdogs and other critics say threatens public health and the environment. Now, fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic is resulting in more challenges as WIPP, the nation’s only underground repository for nuclear waste, finished ramping down operations Wednesday, April 1, 2020, to keep workers safe. (AP Photo/Thomas Herbert, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A watchdog group wants the New Mexico Court of Appeals to put the brakes on a key construction project at the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository.

The Southwest Research and Information Center alleges state environmental officials ignored regulations and past practices in giving temporary approval for contractors to begin building a new ventilation shaft at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

The state stands by its decision.

A radiation release in 2014 forced the repository’s temporary closure.

Resulting contamination limited the air flow underground, prompting the need for a new system so full-scale operations can resume. 

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