Albuquerque: The US Department of Energy faces more than USD 54 million in fines for violations that stem from mishaps at the only US underground nuclear waste repository.
The New Mexico Environment Department delivered a pair of compliance orders to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz yesterday, marking the state's largest penalty ever imposed on the federal agency.
Together, the orders outline more than 30 state permit violations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico and at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
On February 5, a truck hauling salt at WIPP caught fire. Nine days later, a canister of waste from Los Alamos leaked in one of the repository's storage rooms, contaminating 22 workers and forcing the facility's indefinite closure.
Resuming full operations at WIPP could take years and cost about USD 500 million.