Radioactive leak confirmed at nuclear storage site — UPDATED

WIPP at night

Federal officials Thursday confirmed a leak of nuclear waste at a southeastern New Mexico repository, but it could be weeks before workers can safely access the underground dump to determine what happened…

The DOE on Saturday announced that it had shuttered operations in response to an underground radiation sensor. But it wasn’t until Wednesday night that DOE confirmed that radiation had also been released above ground, about a half mile from the plant. And it wasn’t until a Thursday press conference that Jose Franco, manager of the DOE’s Carlsbad Field Office, confirmed publicly that readings from the monitors matched materials from the waste that is stored there, indicating a leak…

Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn said…”We will demand that federal officials share information with the public in real time. That’s the reason we are here…”

Flynn…said, “Events like this should never occur. From the state’s perspective, one event is far too many. Our primary concern continues to be public safety.”

“Even though the levels detected are very low,” he said, “radiation is simply not supposed to be released outside the building.”

The DOE is calmly issuing updates containing soothing noises. Carefully, cautiously, they’re working most of all to keep anyone from noticing they haven’t the slightest idea what is going on.

Thursday night they said they’d soon be able to identify the source of the leak of plutonium and americium — in about three weeks when they believe they’ll be able to re-enter the facility.


UPDATE: Thirteen employees of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant were exposed to radiation – americium-241 – according to test results taken the day a radiation leak was detected at the nuclear waste repository.

Next up? WIPP will have to test any employees who worked the same area – the following day.

About eideard

Lifetime political activist. Cranky old Geek. Green. Progressive.
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20 Responses to Radioactive leak confirmed at nuclear storage site — UPDATED

  1. Chief Wiggum says:

    “…nothing to look at here citizen, just some of those pesky Plutonium isotopes, move along now.”

  2. Dirk Richter says:

    News item: Town hall meeting to discuss WIPP radiation leak (Carlsbad Current-Argus 2/22/14) “Concerned members of the public will have an opportunity to ask questions of officials with knowledge of the situation at the open meeting on Monday (2/24) at 5 p.m. at the Pecos River Village Center Carousel House in Carlsbad.”

  3. moss says:

    Americium-241 has a half-life of 432+ years. Not exactly a short-term question.

  4. Grist for the mill says:

    European limits on exposure to radiation (Germany):
    U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission dose limits for radiation workers and others:

  5. Butch says:

    WIPP: Reconsidering the ‘Impossible’ (April 1st, 2014)

  6. UC,Timmy says:

    “Mystery of WIPP release deepens” (5/2/14) and in a related story: “Feds suspends shipments of LANL waste to Texas facility” news/feds-suspends-shipments-of-lanl-waste-to-texas-facility/article_1a5da086-9448-5322-90a4-f6b2777b4b4b.html – DOE investigators are “looking at the possibility that a chemical reaction may have occurred within a drum, causing a potential release.”

  7. Doc says:

    “DOE official: Could be 3 years before New Mexico nuclear repository resumes full operations” (May 8th, 2014)

  8. Puzzling Evidence™ says:

    “Photos show cracked LANL container at WIPP” (“…raising questions about the safety of other barrels being stored on the lab’s northern New Mexico campus” etc) May 16th, 2014 – Santa Fe New Mexican story “Feds say LANL barrel may be cause of WIPP leak” includes interview of Don Hancock, director of the Nuclear Waste Safety program and administrator at Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque, who suggests ‘the photographic evidence is not necessarily consistent with one theory that an absorbent material similar to kitty litter caused the leak.’
    Re: “National Sacrifice Zones” (NYT 1988)

  9. Joker says:

    After 25 years the cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington state is still 40 to 50 years and billions of dollars away from completion.

  10. Downwind says:

    [5/20/14] “New Mexico Says 57 Nuke Containers Could Be Threat” – Specifically: “a potentially “imminent” and “substantial” threat to public health and the environment”

  11. Puzzling Evidence™ says:

    “New questions raised on leaked nuke waste mixture in New Mexico” (AP 5/29) The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday ( ) that Los Alamos National Laboratory approved using products that some experts say are widely known to cause a heat reaction when mixed with other contents in the drums that were shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

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