Nuclear Waste

DOE Assistance in Funding Route Improvements to Waste Isolation Plant Gao ID: RCED-92-65FS January 14, 1992

Located near Carlsbad, New Mexico, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is intended to be an underground repository for the permanent disposal of transuranic waste--material contaminated with radioactive elements that have atomic numbers greater than uranium. The Department of Energy (DOE) produces this waste at various facilities in its nuclear weapons complex. This fact sheet provides information on DOE's fulfillment agreements with New Mexico to assist the state in obtaining federal funds to improve roads in connection with the plant.

GAO found that: (1) since 1981, DOE has agreed to support the state in obtaining $100 million in federal funds to improve existing state roads to WIPP, and $190 million for construction of new relief routes so that nuclear waste on the way to the facility would bypass population centers; (2) New Mexico has received $54.4 million in federal funds from the Department of Transportation for improvements to existing roads; (3) the state has not received any of the $190 million for new relief routes; (4) DOE has proposed providing New Mexico with up to $605 million over a period of 32 years, in lieu of the $190 million; (5) Congress has appropriated $20 million for the state to mitigate economic impacts in 1992; (6) the Department of the Interior granted DOE preliminary permission to store toxic material at the proposed site, but the state does not wish to allow toxic materials at the site until federal legislation is enacted; and (7) the Senate has passed a bill that would allow radioactive waste at the site, withdraw the land, and authorize $20 million annually for New Mexico during the testing and operating phases and $13 million annually during WIPP decommissioning, but similar legislation has not passed in the House.

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