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Nuclear waste shipments from Washington delayed 20 years

Full disposal of nuclear waste from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in Benton County, Washington at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant repository in Carlsbad, New Mexico could be delayed by 20 years following an accidental radiological release in 2014 at the WIPP site.

Hanford Site, a 580-square-mile location in southeastern Washington was created in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Most of the reactors were decommissioned by the 1970s and today its main mission is environmental remediation and protecting the nearby Columbia River, along with some ongoing research.

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Following the incident in 2014, which led to a three-year shutdown of WIPP’s primary operations, waste shipments from Hanford to WIPP were paused and were still yet to be resumed after WIPP reopened and began receiving and emplacing waste in 2017.

Initially, the DOE planned to dispose of all of Hanford’s waste at WIPP by 2030.

A top official at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation says to expect more mishaps at the site unless funding for it is increased.

A spokesperson from the Hanford Site said the revised deadline of 2050 was the result of negotiated changes to the facility’s “Tri-Party Agreement” between the DOE, Washington State Department of Ecology and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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By 2028, the agreement called for the resumption of transuranic mixed (TRUM) waste from Hanford with 99 percent of Hanford’s TRUM waste being emplaced at WIPP by 2040.