Monday, January 25, 1999

Critics want WIPP to stay shut down

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - Critics are pressing their case to keep mothballed the New Mexico dump for plutonium-contaminated waste now temporarily stored in Idaho and other states. In comments filed with state, opponents of the $2 billion Waste Isolation Pilot Plant argued that New Mexico regulators should prohibit the dump from opening until a special state permit is obtained. Giving in to Energy Department claims that the permit is not needed for some limited dumping, they warned, will result in all state oversight being bypassed. ''You put any waste into WIPP, and the permit is over,'' said Don Hancock of the Southwest Research and Information Center. Federal officials maintain that they can begin shipping waste that is only radioactive early this spring. The government only needs the state permit to dump radioactive waste that is also contaminated with other hazardous substances, they maintain.