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Idaho Nuke Lab Faces Waste Disposal Crunch

Idaho shares a public health threat - and a nuclear waste cleanup headache - with neighboring Washington. Both states and the federal government are trying to figure out how to clean up and dispose of decades-old dumps of toxic mess left behind from the early days of nuclear experimentation and production. 

The waste problem at the Idaho National Laboratory may not be as urgent or as large as the well-publicized issues at Washington's Hanford reservation, but the INL is up against a looming deadline with no place to send its contaminated waste.

Steel drums filled with low-level radioactive waste  are piling up on the INL grounds because the stuff can't be shipped to a New Mexico facility called the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The federal disposal site carved out of salt domes deep underground has been shut down because of a series of accidents earlier this year..

A new study of the accidents in New Mexico - they're called radiological events - concluded that they posed no  health threats, and the problems have been corrected, but the Department of Energy has not yet cleared new shipments to be accepted.

A 1995 agreement between Idaho and the Department of Energy set deadlines for cleaning up old shallowly buried drums in the desert over the Snake River aquifer.

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