Enlarge / A truck from Idaho arrived at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant at night. (credit: WIPP)
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, began accepting shipments of transuranic waste (PDF) this month for the first time since February 2014 when an explosion of a drum of plutonium and americium waste halted all deliveries.
WIPP is the only facility that accepts waste from the nation’s Cold War-era nuclear weapons production sites.

The waste has been kept at those production sites for decades and includes “contaminated items such as clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris, soil.” The New Mexico facility, carved into a 2,000-foot-thick salt bed in the 1980s, is intended to be a long-term storage solution (a very long-term solution) for all the waste that’s distributed at facilities across the country.
The 2014 accident at WIPP occurred when a worker packed a shipment of waste in the wrong kind of kitty litter, which started a “complex chemical reaction” causing “white, radioactive foam” to explode from the drum, according to the Los Angeles Times. No one was in the WIPP shafts at the time of the explosion, so no one was hurt, and workers on the surface were only exposed to minimal radiation.

But the facility’s state-of-the-art ventilation system was damaged, meaning shipments to the facility couldn’t continue.
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