Employees of New Mexico Nuclear Waste Dump Were Exposed to Radiation
According to FOX News, biological samples show that 13 employees who worked at the United States Department of Energy (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico were exposed to radiation.
The DOE and the contractor that runs the project declined to comment after the results were confirmed, selecting to wait to comment further at a news conference due to happen Thursday (Feb. 27).
Details About the Radiation Leak
- The plant is located in Carlsbad, New Mexico and serves as an underground nuclear waste dump.
- The leak occurred on February 14, and all employees were checked for contamination before they could leave.
- Biological samples were also taken to check for potential exposure from inhaling radioactive particles.
- Elevated radiaton levels are being detected in ther surrounding air next to the plant, but officials have stated that the readings are currently too low to form a public threat.
- The DOE will be requesting federal and contractor employees to give additional samples in order to further explore the extent of the exposures.
Background on the Carlsbad Plant
WIPP is the nation's first deep underground nuclear depository and the only facility that can store plutonium-contaminated clothing and tools. This is the first known leak of radiation since the dump started taking plutonium-contaminated waste from nuclear bomb building sites 15 years ago.
The accident occurred just nine days after another incident involving a truck that caught on fire. Officials have since clarified that the two events are unrelated.
Officials also have said that based on their analysis of air samples, a container of waste was leaked, and it could take weeks before they can go underground to see what caused the leak.
On Monday at a community meeting, Farok Sharif, president of the Nuclear Waste Partnership, stated that possible scenarios could include a ceiling collapse or a forklift puncturing a canister. Over 250 concerned members of the community attended the forum where Sharif was joined by Joe Franco, the DOE site office manager.
Sen. Tom Udall has said that he plans to send the Environmental Protection Agency a letter Thursday requesting portable air monitors to the area. New Mexico State University is running a monitoring center in Carlsbad, offering free body scans that can detect radiation.