News

N.M. Salt Beds Could Become Nation’s Nuclear Dump– For 11 years, the federal government has been burying nuclear waste in New Mexican salt beds at a place called WIPP, or the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. It’s waste from making atomic weapons.But now the government is looking for a place to put thousands of tons of spent fuel from reactors. These salt beds could be the place. New Mexicans, however, are faced with the prospect of becoming the nation’s default nuclear waste dump.

13 Workers Exposed To Radiation At N.M. Nuclear Waste Dump– There’s never a good week for nuclear waste, but this week has been a particularly bad one. Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico have disclosed that 13 employees inhaled radioactive material after a major accident earlier this month.

For N.M., Nuclear Waste May Be Too Hot To Handle– Tourists in New Mexico know the art galleries of Santa Fe and the ski slopes of Taos, but not the state’s truly unique attraction: the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.  The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, is a series of caverns mined out of underground salt beds. The Department of Energy has been burying “transuranic” waste there for 11 years. The waste includes gloves, equipment and chemicals contaminated — probably with plutonium — during the making of nuclear weapons. It’s dangerous stuff but fairly easily handled.

WIPP contract extended 3 years– Despite the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant being nonfunctional for nearly three years, the operating and management contract for the southeastern New Mexico repository has been extended through 2020.  Nuclear Waste Partnership, under whose management the underground nuclear waste repository experienced two accidents in February 2014 that resulted in its closure, was awarded a $928 million, three-year extension option by the U.S. Department of Energy on Friday.

Roof collapses at WIPP raise new safety questions– In a salt mine more than 2,000 feet underground where drums of nuclear waste are embedded in enormous rooms – some radiologically contaminated – workers heard a loud noise and saw a spray of salt dust.

Officials Plan To Seal Part Of WIPP– A top U.S. Energy Department official in southern New Mexico says the agency plans to close off part of the federal government’s underground nuclear waste repository due to contamination and stability concerns.

Hanging Out With the Disgruntled Guys Who Babysit America’s Aging Nuclear Missiles– Along a lonely state highway on central Montana’s high plains, I approach what looks like a ranch entrance, complete with cattle guard. “The first ace in the hole,” reads a hand-etched cedar plank hanging from tall wooden posts. “In continuous operation for over 50 years.” I drive up the dirt road to a building surrounded by video cameras and a 10-foot-tall, barbed-wire-topped fence stenciled with a poker spade. “It is unlawful to enter this area,” notes a sign on the fence, whose small print cites the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950, a law that once required communist organizations to register with the federal government. “Use of deadly force authorized.”

Trump and the Nuclear Codes: How To Launch a Nuclear Weapon– There has been a lot of talk about the fact that after his inauguration, Donald Trump will have his finger on the “button” used to launch nuclear weapons. But the president does not actually have a “button.”Instead when he becomes president he will be given nuclear codes that enable him to launch a nuclear strike.What does that actually mean?

So Long, Mom, I’m Off to Drop the Bomb: A Case Study in Public Usage of an Educational Tool– If a nuclear weapon went off in your hometown, what sort of damage would it cause? This question has been asked by millions of people since 1945 in both formal and informal settings. As an historian of the bomb, I’ve found that students in both high school and college remain fascinated—and horrified—by the subject. While images of distant mushroom clouds from Cold War nuclear testing films and photographs can still inspire awe, it can be easy to lose a sense of scale. Transposing nuclear weapons effects onto local maps has, since the early Cold War, been a method of communicating these kinds of concerns to lay individuals. It was with this communication goal in mind that I created NUKEMAP in early February 2012.