WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced that the president has signed legislation providing $324 million for recovery and operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, N.M. Earlier this year, Udall, a member of the Appropriations Committee, and Heinrich had requested the funding to ensure recovery efforts can continue so the facility can safely resume operation and accept waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory. The funding was included in the so-called "omnibus" appropriations bill, which funds the government through the end of the fiscal year, and was signed into law by President Obama last week.
WIPP has been closed since February following two separate accidents, a fire and a radiation release. The Department of Energy released a recovery plan for the plant on Sept. 30, and it is currently finalizing a report on the cause of the radiation release.
"This is critical funding that is absolutely necessary to move forward with cleanup and recovery at WIPP and so we can resume shipments of waste from Los Alamos," Udall said. "These funds will help us move toward a safe reopening of WIPP, which not only provides jobs in the state, but is pivotal to both our national security and our energy security. WIPP is our nation's only permanent repository for transuranic waste, and I will continue to work with the state and the Department of Energy to ensure we get the facility up and running safely and soon."
"Our nation's security relies heavily on the important work being done at WIPP. Not only is the facility an integral part of the environmental cleanup of Cold War programs at Department of Energy defense sites around the country, including Los Alamos, it also supports many jobs in New Mexico," said Heinrich. "This extra funding will help ensure that WIPP maintains the highest level of safety and transparency to protect the workers and community, and keep the recovery efforts moving forward so that safe operations can be restored."
In June, Senator Udall worked to ensure the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill provided full funding for WIPP, including more than $100 million for WIPP cleanup. The final appropriations bill, which was approved by the Senate and signed into law last Tuesday, provided both the administration's original funding request of $220 million, plus an additional $104 million that was designated for recovery from the radiological accident.