On Sunday of last week [October 18, 2015] a long closed radioactive waste dump ~100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada burned and exploded from “heavily corroded” 55-gallon drums of supposedly “low level” radioactive waste. This waste is purportedly a step below the “medium-level” bomb and fuel slurry wastes that more recently has gone for long-term sequestration in the “troubled” (as in “exploding”) and still closed deep salt mine WIPP facility near Carlsbad, New Mexico.
The operator of a closed radioactive waste dump that caught fire in southern Nevada had trouble over the years with leaky shipments and oversight so lax that employees took contaminated tools and building materials home, according to state and federal records.
The firm, now called US Ecology Inc. [formerly Nuclear Engineering Co.], had its license suspended for mishandling shipments in the 1970s – about the same time that state officials say the material that exploded and burned last weekend was accepted and buried.
Nevada now has ownership and oversight of the property, which opened in 1962 near Beatty as the nation’s first federally licensed low-level radioactive waste dump and closed in 1992. State officials said this week they didn’t immediately know what blew up.
Federal records document 4.7 million cubic feet of radioactive materials were buried before the company lost its license and the facility was closed.