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New Mexico nuclear waste site has ‘radiological event’

Published time: February 16, 2014 09:36
Reuters / Alex Domanski

Reuters / Alex Domanski

Officials are monitoring the levels of airborne radiation at the deep underground facility in southeastern New Mexico where the US government disposes of its low-grade nuclear waste.

Air samples were taken around the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) after a monitoring system detected traces of radiation on the underground levels of the facility around 11:30 pm Friday night, the US Department of Energy said in a news release.

The 139 workers above ground at the time of the incident were ordered Saturday to remain where they were as a precaution. None of the employees tested positive for radioactive contamination, and all non-essential personnel were released, Department of Energy spokesman Roger Nelson said.

Nelson said the cause of the leak remains a mystery, since inspection crews have not yet gone underground. He added that he was not sure when that would happen.

Surface samples show no sign of radiation, thus suggesting the leak was "not significant," he said.

But officials aren’t taking any chances.

"We are going to take measurements and make sure we understand it" before sending down a team, Nelson said.

US Rep. Steve Pearce issued a statement, saying: "WIPP has acted quickly and cautiously to ensure the safety of personnel and the local community."

The incident comes on the heels of an underground truck fire at the facility that prompted an evacuation. Six workers were treated for smoke inhalation on Feb. 5.

Asked if the incidents were related, Nelson said: "I just can't think of a scenario where there would be a relationship."

WIPP is the country's only deep nuclear waste facility. It takes plutonium-contaminated waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory and other federal nuclear projects.

It is located approximately 26 miles (42 kilometers) east of Carlsbad, New Mexico, in a region known as the southeastern New Mexico nuclear corridor, which also includes the National Enrichment Facility near Eunice.

Comments (13)


Robert Anderson 18.02.2014 12:43

I'm sure the people down wind of Chernobyl would welcome such a insignificant event. There is no story here.


Enlightened 17.02.2014 14:44

Michael Ferrullo 17.02.2014 05:58

An Event?. That is what we are calling these things now? Oh and what an event all these events have been?...Well then its raining down false flag EVENTS all over America


Anytime a Geiger counter has unusually high readings, they call it an event. Either it needs to have 100% of it's base reading, or have over 100 cpm for it to be considered an event.

So if normal was 20 cpm, and event would be triggered by 40 cpm.


Gary Snyder 17.02.2014 07:07

The "event" is likely a must-report issue and so small we probably see more radiation during an airline flight. We all must be cautious not to over react during the age of information.

View all comments (13)
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