New Mexico wants to end federal breaches of reporting rules for dangerous substances at a nuclear dump near Carlsbad, the Albuquerque Journal reports.
The state's environmental agency this week formally ordered the Energy Department to explain how it will fall back in line with rules requiring weekly declarations on levels of methane, hydrogen and other hazardous substances at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the newspaper reported on Thursday. Federal officials began running afoul of the requirements after an escape of radioactive contaminants forced workers to vacate underground portions of the site in February.
A New Mexico Environment Department mandate also demands that more extensive supplementary assessments be issued on a biweekly basis. The state's action applies to the Energy Department as well as the burial site's managing contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership.
At a public meeting last week, a top state oversight official responded angrily to a site administrator for deflecting a journalist's inquiry about waste casks suspected of having caused the February contamination incident. New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn called the move "a really good example ... of some of the frustration that I've had since I was notified about this event."
"If you have information, you need to disclose that information to the public immediately," Flynn said.
Another New Mexico official said the nuclear dump's management stepped up contacts with the state as a probe on the radiation incident unfolded.
Now, though, "we know on the record, in an enforceable order, we're going to get this information regularly," said Jeff Kendall, general counsel for the state's environmental agency. "Noncompliance with the order has certain consequences."
According to the Energy Department's Carlsbad outpost, the new state mandate subjects subterranean areas of the facility to rules already in force at its surface.
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