Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, who as a congressman from New Mexico had fought the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, is now critical of delays in opening the deep-underground repository for transuranic nuclear waste.

In September, Richardson expressed impatience with the New Mexico Department of Environment for holding up shipments to the facility. Last May, the US Environmental Protection Agency certified the WIPP repository.

While acknowledging that he frequently criticised WIPP as a congressman, Richardson now says the added safeguards he fought for have been implemented. “I made a personal commitment as a Congressman to ensure that WIPP would not open until it was safe. It has been certified as safe to open and it should begin receiving waste for disposal promptly,” he said.

Meanwhile, Thermo Remediation has received two contracts worth $1.2 million from the US Department of Energy to characterise the contents of drums containing transuranic waste that would be shipped to WIPP. Before disposal at WIPP, the contents of the 55-gallon barrels must be characterised and certified. The work will be performed at the DOE’s Nevada Test Site.