Reuters: “Unsafe levels of radiation” were released during WIPP accident; More workers contaminated with plutonium — AP: Leak of radioactive material could’ve been “orders of magnitude larger”; Feds now testing air & soil 50 miles from site (AUDIO)
Published: March 31st, 2014 at 9:57 pm ET
Reuters, Mar. 27, 2014: An investigative team plans to re-enter an underground nuclear waste site in New Mexico next week for the first time since an accidental release of unsafe levels of radiation there last month, a U.S. Energy Department official said […] U.S. authorities now say that 21 workers at the Carlsbad-area “waste isolation pilot project” (WIPP) were exposed to radiation after the accidental leak from the site […] Testing of surface air in and around the Energy Department complex has shown elevated levels of radiation since the mishap […] That brings to 21 the number of workers who inhaled or ingested particles emitted from the decay of radioisotopes like plutonium […]
AP, Mar. 28, 2014: […] the DOE said it will expand its environmental monitoring to 10 more stations that will test air, soil and vegetation around Hobbs [50 miles from WIPP], Artesia [50 miles from WIPP], Loving [20 miles from WIPP], Eunice [40 miles from WIPP] and other nearby communities. To date, samples taken around Carlsbad have shown only radiation levels well below those deemed unsafe. […] Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Chairman Peter Winokur said that for six days after the fire, no underground air monitors were operational, meaning that if the system failed when the leak occurred Feb. 14, “or if the release event had occurred three days earlier, the release of radioactive material from the aboveground mine exhaust would have been orders of magnitude larger.”
Big 2 News, Mar. 28, 2014: New developments in the radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant […] A total number of 21 employees are thought to have been exposed to the radiation leak. Lawmakers are now raising questions about required safety inspections that were not performed at the plant prior to the leak. […]
Carlsbad Current-Argus, Mar. 27, 2014: […] New Mexico’s senators want answers about why legally required inspections for WIPP weren’t performed by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. NM senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich sent a letter to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez Thursday asking for a written report on why MSHA hadn’t performed the legally required inspections at WIPP. The information about missed safety inspections was revealed in the Department of Energy’s accident report on the Feb. 5 fire at WIPP. By law, MSHA is required to inspect WIPP four times a year. The accident report said the inspections had been performed twice in the last three years. “The health and safety of the workers at WIPP and the surrounding community are our top priorities and it is extremely concerning to learn that a fire in the mining portion of WIPP was a preventable circumstance,” Udall and Heinrich wrote in the letter.