Critics are disputing the federal government's claims that an underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico can't reopen because of safety concerns and equipment setbacks.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1Jefzul) that the U.S. Department of Energy says the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's opening has been postponed so officials can make sure all is secure following last year's fire and radiation leak.

Local watchdog groups say errors made by the site contractor and inadequate Department of Energy oversight are behind the delays.

The Energy Department had initially projected a restart of operations in March 2016.

But a revised schedule will be issued this fall and will likely come with a heftier price tag beyond the original $500 million estimate.

WIPP has been closed since February 2014.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com