Radiation leak detected at New Mexico nuclear plant

Feb 17, 2014
File picture shows a radioactivity warning symbol on a "CASTOR" (Cask for Storage and Transportation of Radioactive Material)

US investigators were taking samples at a New Mexico underground nuclear waste site where airborne radiation was detected, though authorities stressed they had found no contamination.

Officials monitoring the possible radiation leak said there was no danger to people or the environment at the Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the nation's first repository to seal away , mostly plutonium, used for defense research and the production of .

The waste is dumped 2,150 feet (655 meters) underground in disposal rooms excavated in an ancient, stable salt formation.

No employees were underground when the continuous air monitor at WIPP near Carlsbad, New Mexico detected underground radiation at 11:30 pm Friday (0630 GMT Saturday), an agency statement said.

It said no staffer was found to be contaminated by the radiation.

Employees on the surface were told to shelter in place as a precautionary measure and were cleared to leave the site starting at 5:00 pm Saturday (0001 GMT Sunday).

"We are continuing to monitor and we are emphasizing that there is no danger to human health and the environment," WIPP spokeswoman Deb Gill told AFP.

The agency stressed that "no contamination has been found on any equipment, personnel or facilities."

As soon as the airborne radiation was detected underground at the site WIPP's ventilation system automatically switched to filtration mode in order to prevent air exchange with the surface.

Investigators have not yet identified the source of the , but WIPP said the site's system of air monitors and protective filtration system "continue to function as designed."

The site was shut down and not performing active operations at the time, according to Gill.

Earlier this month, an blaze prompted the evacuation of a different part of the site, after a truck hauling salt caught fire. Several workers suffered smoke inhalation.

But officials said the blaze was nowhere near radioactive material.

Material dumped at the site includes plutonium-contaminated waste from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, about 300 miles (500 kilometers) away, also in New Mexico.

Explore further: Volume of nuclear waste could be reduced by 90 percent, says new research

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US state in new alert over nuclear waste leak

Jun 23, 2013

Heightened radioactivity levels were found outside a nuclear waste tank in the US state of Washington, officials said Friday, in a new alert about a site used to make Cold War-era bombs.

Radioactive ash found in waste plants near Tokyo

Jul 12, 2011

Japanese waste incineration plants near Tokyo have found high levels of radiation in ash, and officials said Tuesday it may be from garden waste contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Towns near NM fire, nuclear lab wary of smoke

Jun 29, 2011

(AP) -- Residents downwind of a wildfire that is threatening the nation's premier nuclear-weapons laboratory are worried about the potential of a radioactive smoke plume if the flames reach thousands of barrels ...

Cobalt-60 still sitting in Mexican cornfield

Dec 11, 2013

A shipment of highly radioactive cobalt-60 is still sitting in the cornfield where it was found a week ago after being abandoned by thieves in central Mexico, the country's nuclear safety director said Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Preparing for a zero-emission urban bus system

22 hours ago

In order to create a competitive and sustainable transport system, the EU must look to alternative fuels to replace or complement petrol and diesel. Not only will this reduce transport emissions but it will ...

Exploring the value of 'Energy Star' homes

22 hours ago

The numbers in neat columns tell—column by column, page by page—a story spread out across Carmen Carrión-Flores' desk at Binghamton University. It's a great story, she says; she just doesn't know how ...

Toward a networked energy future

Oct 29, 2014

February 1, 2050, is a good day for German electricity consumers. The breeze off the north coast is blowing so strongly that offshore wind farms and the wind turbines on land are running non-stop. Since it's ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.