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Apr. 17 First News: Feds: Re-Opening WIPP Will Cost Millions And Will Take Years (Listen)

Federal officials say it could take years and cost more than a half-billion dollars to reopen the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Investigators say officials could have prevented the poor management and lapses in safety that led to radiation contamination inside the federal government's only underground nuclear waste repository. The shortcomings were outlined in a final report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Energy's Accident Investigation Board. Investigators spent more than a year looking into the cause of the radiation release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Like a separate team of experts, they also found that the release was caused by a chemical reaction inside a drum of waste that had been packaged at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The release contaminated workers and forced the indefinite closure of WIPP..

A nuclear expert from Idaho has been named the new president and project manager of the company that oversees the federal government's troubled nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico. Nuclear Waste Partnership announced the change Thursday, saying Philip Breidenbach will replace Bob McQuinn next week. McQuinn came on board in 2014 shortly after a radiation release forced the indefinite closure of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and stalled the cleanup of Cold War-era waste at facilities around the country. McQuinn was among those who developed a recovery plan for WIPP and implemented corrective actions over the past year.Breidenbach comes from the Idaho National Laboratory where he served as head of nuclear operations at the Materials and Fuels Complex. He also worked at Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

Voters on the country's largest American Indian reservation are choosing a new president Tuesday. The election comes after months of court battles that started with a question over fluency in the Navajo language. One candidate was disqualified, resulting in a race between former tribal President Joe Shirley Jr. and onetime lawmaker Russell Begaye. Shirley has positioned himself as an experienced leader, while Begaye is counting on his short time in politics to give him the edge. Whoever is elected will confront huge challenges that the tribe has faced for decades, including rampant unemployment, and a lack of running water and electricity. Some 120,000 Navajos are registered to vote in the special election. Ben Shelly will continue serving as Navajo Nation president until a new leader is sworn in next month.

The Border Patrol says seven people were taken into custody in southern New Mexico following a chase of a pickup seen stopping along Interstate 10 in Deming to pick up people who emerged from the desert. The Border Patrol said agents saw the vehicle make several U-turns on I-10 before and after it picked up the people on Monday. The agents followed the vehicle when it got off I-10 in Deming and alerted other law enforcement agencies when the vehicle accelerated when the agents tried to pull it over. The truck was disabled when a tire struck a curb. The Border Patrol said the driver and six passengers who said they had illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border were taken into custody.

A federal appeals court has denied a request to keep a review on the effects of burning coal from a Navajo Nation mine from moving forward. The Navajo Transitional Energy Co. LLC sought an emergency stay on a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge John Kane while it appealed the decision. The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied the request Thursday. Kane had blocked efforts to expand operations within the Navajo Mine in northwestern New Mexico. He says the federal Office of Surface Mining violated federal law in not considering the impacts of coal combustion and sent the tribe's permit revision application back to the agency. The Navajo company had argued the ruling could jeopardize the long-term sustainability of the mine and associated power plant. Environmentalists said those claims were exaggerated.

Santa Fe Weather: Mostly sunny today with the high 49 with a slight chance of showers this afternoon. Tonight: scattered rain showers before midnight, then scattered snow showers. There’s a 40-percent chance for precipitation tonight. Tomorrow: Partly sunny with a 30-percent chance for showers, tomorrow’s high, 55.