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.

21 thoughts on “Radioactive leak confirmed at nuclear storage site — UPDATED

  1. 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.”

  2. 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)

  3. 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.

  4. Déjà Vu says:

    Nine containers full of transuranic waste are stuck at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Plutonium Facility after the Carlsbad Waste Isolation Pilot Plant refused to take them in back in July. The Department of Energy’s contractor N3B that operates WIPP inspected the drums at LANL prior to the shipping date and determined that the drums contained materials that could combust.
    “These containers specifically failed to meet the Basis of Knowledge requirements for oxidizing chemicals that DOE established to preclude another energetic chemical reaction and radioactive material release at WIPP,” said onsite Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board inspectors in a July 26 report. “These energetic reactions can result in greater airborne respirable releases of radioactive material than is typically analyzed.”
    The nine containers are now stored at Area G, bringing the total to 24 that are stored within the fabric domes and on the outdoor waste pads at the lab’s Plutonium Facility. (Los Alamos Monitor Sunday, September 1, 2019)
    In February 2014, when the lab was managed and operated by Los Alamos National Security, nuclear waste and organic kitty litter inside a drum from LANL burst, leading radiological material in the underground storage area at WIPP. An investigation found that the wrong type of kitty litter was used in the packing of the drum.
    No workers were permanently injured in the accident, but the plant was closed for three years for cleanup and renovations to the underground storage facility’s ventilation system.
    According to August 2016 estimates from the Government Accountability Office, it cost about $300 million to recover and restart the plant.

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