CARLSBAD, N.M. (TheBlaze/AP) — The contractor that operates the federal government's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico received a $1.9 million bonus earlier this year.
Not necessarily unusual — except that the bonus was awarded just five days after an underground truck fire closed the facility...and another few days before a radiation leak that ultimately contaminated 22 workers at low levels.
In this Feb. 24, 2014 photo, Farok Sharif, president of the Nuclear Waste Partnership speaks during a community meeting in Carlsbad, N.M. New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall says he will ask the Environmental Protection Agency to send air monitors to southeastern New Mexico following a radiation release from the federal government’s underground nuclear waste dump near Carlsbad. Udall says he will send a letter Thursday requesting the portable monitors. Udall says the health and safety of the community and workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant are his top priority. The EPA has regulatory authority over the site and any airborne radiation releases. (Image source: AP/Jeri Clausing)
The U.S. Department of Energy awarded Nuclear Waste Partnership the funds based on an "excellent" job performance in maintaining the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, The Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday.
But some observers say last February's fire and the radiation leak that followed nine days later demonstrate the contractor failed at its job.
More from the Journal:
Those failings included allowing diesel fuel engine oil to build up on the truck that caught fire and, although the investigation is still ongoing into how and why a hot reaction cracked open a drum of nuclear waste, included a laundry list of maintenance deficiencies that contributed to a small amount of radiation being released into the environment.
Initial probes by federal regulators into both incidents identified a host of maintenance and safety shortcomings in "two sharply worded accident investigation reports," the Journal added.
The Department of Energy said it's not considering revising or terminating its contract with Nuclear Waste Partnership which runs through 2017.