Workers found contaminants in higher quantities as they moved into part of a Western nuclear-waste site vacated in February, the Associated Press reports.
Crews would need to re-enter the subterranean corridors of New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant a fifth time to isolate the source of airborne radioactive materials detected there, according to Thursday remarks by Tammy Reynolds, deputy recovery chief for the U.S. Energy Department. Underground portions of the site have been off-limits to personnel following a contamination incident, which came days after a vehicle caught fire inside the facility.
Reynolds said U.S. personnel hope to obtain further details next week. Crew members had to end their most recent venture into the site after five hours on Wednesday, as temperatures rose inside their protective clothing and power for their breathing apparatus dwindled, AP reported.
The Energy Department official said the entry team investigated both of the facility’s waste rooms that had not previously been permanently closed off. Waste is entombed in five additional storage “panels,” but workers rendered the airtight chambers permanently inaccessible after they reached capacity.
“It doesn’t seem to us that the contamination came from Panel 6, that the source came from Panel 7,” Reynolds said. Panel 6 had been completely filled but not closed off, making the latter chamber the only area receiving waste at the time of the incident.
Personnel might receive help from robotic equipment as they attempt to determine the source of the escaped contaminants, according to AP. Suspected culprits include a waste barrel possibly punctured by moving equipment, or by or a ceiling that may have fallen.
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"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.