A drum full of radioactive waste exploded at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico last February, sparking serious safety concerns about the U.S.'s only longterm nuclear storage site. A yearlong government investigation has officially fingered the long-suspected culprit: kitty litter.

Kitty litter? Yes, inorganic kitty litter is commonly used to pack nuclear waste. But the contractor switched to wheat-based organic kitty litter, which reacted with existing chemicals in the waste. "The nitrate salt residues, organic sorbent (Swheat Scoop® ), and neutralization agent (triethanolamine) known to be present represent a potentially reactive chemical mixture of fuels and oxidizers," concludes the report's summary. All 277 pages of the full report are available here.

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The technical investigation doesn't explain why the switch was made, but last year, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported it may have all started with a dumb typo. Read more about it below.

[NPR]

AP Photo/Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

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