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Leaking underground nuke waste still a problem in Los Alamos lab

New Mexico has ordered the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to submit a plan to isolate and seal off two underground rooms

LOS ALAMOS, N.M.—Los Alamos National Laboratory Wednesday told the state it has isolated and is closely monitoring nuclear waste on its campus that was packed with a type of cat litter suspected in a radiation leak at the government’s underground nuclear waste dump.

Responding to an order from state regulators for a detailed plan, the lab said the 55-gallon (208-litre) barrels have been secured in special containers and moved to an isolated area with a fire protection system. They also are being monitored 24 hours a day for any change in temperature, smoking or other abnormalities.

“Los Alamos is committed to securing and isolating this waste while we continue to investigate the cause of the February release,” the lab said in a statement.

Officials have linked a Feb. 14 radiation release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad in southeastern New Mexico to a waste container from Los Alamos that was packed with organic cat litter to absorb moisture. Officials are investigating whether a chemical reaction in the containers caused the breach.

While the probe continues, the state has also ordered the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to submit a plan to isolate and seal off the two underground rooms where more than 350 containers of waste containing nitrate sales and organic cat litter are being stored.

More than 100 other suspect containers are being stored temporarily at Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas.

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