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Recovery Work Halts At New Mexico Nuclear Waste Facility

Poor air quality has temporarily halted recovery work at an underground nuclear waste storage facility in New Mexico, which has been closed for the past two years following an accident.

Federal officials announced what they called a “safety pause” late Monday at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, outside of Carlsbad. This came after monitoring instruments carried by workers detected elevated levels of carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds.

Work won't resume until a plan is developed to keep workers safe, but officials are still hoping to reopen the facility by the end of the year. The repository has been closed since February 2014. That’s when an incorrectly packed drum of waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory popped its lid and released radiation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Stina Sieg was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2013 to 2018.