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Officials upset by transfer of nuke dump contract

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 15, 2014 at 3:57 pm •  Published: May 15, 2014

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — A decision to transfer a record-storage contract for the government's troubled underground nuclear waste dump to a Tennessee company is a "crime against the taxpayer" and sends the wrong message as the project struggles to recover from the most significant setback in its history, community leaders said in a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

City and county leaders on Tuesday issued the objection to a recent announcement by the Nuclear Waste Partnership, which runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in southeastern New Mexico for the federal Department of Energy, that it had awarded the contract to handle all of the dump's archives and documents to a Tennessee-based company, TFE Inc. TFE replaces S.M. Stoller Corp., which employs about 90 people in Carlsbad.

The change comes as the dump is indefinitely shuttered by a mysterious radiation leak that contaminated 21 workers with low levels of radiation.

"NWP and all of WIPP are currently embroiled in the most significant setback of the project's 15-year history," the letter said. "NWP should be building confidence in Southeastern New Mexico right now, and subcontracting with an outside company who will be laying off a large group of local people doesn't exactly seem like the wisest way to build community relations."

They also questioned the legality of the contract, saying the Waste Isolation Pilot Project Records Archive was "created federally with the full understanding that the facility would be in Carlsbad, as would the consolidation of records."

"... Abandoning these facilities now is a crime against the taxpayer," the letter said.

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