Lasrick writes: An underground fire and a separate plutonium leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) has left the US with no repository for transuranic (TRU) waste--that is, radioactive elements heavier than uranium on the periodic chart, such as plutonium, americium, curium and neptunium. WIPP is a bedded salt formation in New Mexico, chosen because of its presumed long-term stability and self-sealing properties, and it currently holds, among other things, 4.9 metric tons of plutonium. Despite assurances from the DOE that the plant would soon reopen, New Mexico has cancelled WIPP's disposal permit indefinitely. Robert Alvarez, who has served as senior policy adviser to the Energy Department's secretary and as deputy assistant secretary for national security, explores what happened at WIPP, and what it means for defense nuclear waste storage.
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