Senators Udall, Heinrich Seek Additional Resources for WIPP

Letter to appropriators urges full funding to implement recovery plan and reopen plant

As Congress finalizes its fiscal year 2015 spending bills, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced today they are seeking continued support for funding for the recovery of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, N.M.

In a letter to Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, the senators urged them to provide an additional $113 million above 2014 funding levels to ensure ongoing recovery efforts are maintained and the facility can safely resume operation.

WIPP has been closed since February following a fire and a radiation release. The Department of Energy released a recovery plan for the plant on September 30, and it is finalizing a report on the cause of the radiation release.

“WIPP is the nation’s only deep geologic repository for transuranic nuclear weapons waste and an integral part of the environmental clean-up of Cold War programs at Department of Energy defense sites around the country,” the senators wrote in the letter. “We believe it is essential that WIPP have additional funding in FY15 to continue implementing the recovery plan, including all of the recommendations of the Accident Investigation Boards. Though the president’s original FY15 budget request for WIPP did not reflect the additional funding required to respond to the accidents, we very much appreciate your including additional funding in your subcommittee’s draft bill for FY15 to support of WIPP’s recovery.”

In June, Senator Udall worked to ensure the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill provided $323 million for WIPP, including $102 million for WIPP cleanup. The senators’ letter requests the appropriators’ “continued support for funding for the recovery of [WIPP] in the fiscal year 2015 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill or in any continuing resolution.” In total, the senators requested $334 million, including $5.5 million for safeguards and security, and highlighted that the additional funding was critical to recovery efforts.

The Senators hosted U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at WIPP for an “all hands” employee meeting and surface tour of the site in August. Throughout the visit, the senators underscored the importance of getting WIPP reopened safely, and they highlighted how important WIPP is to the community and to national defense.

The full text of the letter is available HERE.