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.

WTF?

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.

20 comments

    • moss

      Compare the headline to the penultimate paragraph: “Managers have not said when technicians will re-enter the mine.”

  1. UC,Timmy

    “Mystery of WIPP release deepens” (5/2/14) http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Mystery-of-WIPP-release-deepens-0205144.html 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.”

  2. Puzzling Evidence™

    “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 http://www.abqjournal.com/401669/abqnewsseeker/photos-show-cracked-lanl-container-at-wipp.html – 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) http://www.nytimes.com/1988/10/31/us/dying-nuclear-plants-give-birth-to-new-problems.html?pagewanted=all

  3. Puzzling Evidence™

    “New questions raised on leaked nuke waste mixture in New Mexico” (AP 5/29) http://www.elpasotimes.com/latestnews/ci_25859684/new-questions-raised-leaked-nuke-waste-mixture-new The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/1nxaRA5 ) 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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