New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant took three decades, several lawsuits, myriad battles with the Department of Energy, and more than a few political twists and turns before becoming the first and only operational geologic radioactive waste repository in the world. The story of how Carlsbad, New Mexico, became the center of a national drama is an object lesson in how the United States and countries around the world can improve on this lengthy, contentious, and incredibly vital repository approval process. As more and more nations build nuclear programs and accumulate radioactive waste, there is no time to lose in initiating plans for safe disposal sites that can last—essentially—forever.
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