Unusually high levels of radioactive particles were found at an underground nuclear waste site in New Mexico on Saturday in what a spokesman said looked like the first real alarm since the plant opened in 1999.
U.S. officials were testing for radiation in air samples at the site where radioactive waste, such as plutonium used in defense research and nuclear weapon making, is dumped half a mile below ground in an ancient salt formation.
It was not yet clear what caused the air-monitoring system to indicate that radioactive particles were present at unsafe levels, Nelson said.
A team could be sent below ground before the end of the weekend and Nelson said the plant was "not in active operations. We're in a period we have normally reserved for shutting down the facility for maintenance".
Nelson said the facility may have accurate measurements as early as Sunday on the number of airborne alpha and beta particles, which can be harmful if inhaled or ingested.
...where radioactive waste, such as plutonium used in defense research and nuclear weapon making, is dumped half a mile below ground in an ancient salt formation.
WIPP stores contaminated trash. Crap like gloves that have been used to handle material. Or machine tool parts, or wipe-down rags. Old protection suits. Wash water from people or equipment that has transuranics in it.
reply to post by Indigent
It's all gonna catch up to us someday that's for sure.
Good heads up!
reply to post by Bedlam
You miss that is the minimum value to be stored there, not the average or anything
...and no upper level specified
Official: 4.4 mil disintegration of alpha radiation detected at leaking U.S. nuclear site, includes Plutonium; Highest recorded level — Santa Fe Briefing: “Serious incident involving radiation at the WIPP site” — Gov’t “reaching out to employees who are worried” about exposure
Almost two weeks after an unexplained puff of radioactive materials forced the closing of a salt mine in New Mexico that is used to bury nuclear bomb wastes, managers of the mine are planning to send workers back in and are telling nearby residents that their health is safe.
There was some small release of radiation, however. The Carlsbad research center registered the materials — plutonium and americium — on filter materials installed on air monitors in the surrounding desert. These filters must be collected and then dissolved in acid so the material they trapped can be analyzed. They can detect amounts far smaller than the device that registered the initial alarm, but the process takes many hours.
The materials registered on the surface are consistent with the material buried at the plant, but the quantities released are far below the levels at which the Environmental Protection Agency would recommend any action, officials said.
Even in the desert, the danger to humans was small, the mine’s operators said. The highest reading from the monitors indicated that a person could have inhaled radioactive material that would emit a dose, over the person’s lifetime, of 3.4 millirem, an amount roughly equal to three days of natural background radiation. But to get the dose, the person would have had to stand for hours in the desert, on the downwind side of the plant.
US Official: Large amounts of radioactive particles were released during initial ‘puff’ event at leaking nuclear site — Expert: Plutonium can travel ‘a long way’ in wind — TV: “They’re saying we shouldn’t worry… yet; Yet is the key word” (VIDEOS)
DoE spokesman Roger Nelson, cited by the Carlsbad Current Argus, said: "It's safe to say this is the most serious fire we've ever had underground."
According to the DoE, the New Mexico site is "the nation's first repository for the permanent disposal of defense-generated transuranic radioactive waste left from research and production of nuclear weapons."
The plant, some 270 miles (434 kilometers) southeast of Albuquerque, is used to dispose of material including plutonium-contaminated waste from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, about 300 miles (483 kilometers) away, also in New Mexico
Carlsbad, NM close to area 51?
New air testing in the nation's only underground nuclear repository showed no detectable radioactive contamination from a leak last month, the U.S. Department of Energy said Sunday.
Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad said in a statement that the results came in as four more employees tested positive for low levels of radiation. The Energy Department earlier reported that 13 other workers were exposed, but they say all 17 aren't likely to face any serious health effects and that there appears to be no danger aboveground.
Investigators sent instruments used to measure air quality and radioactivity underground Friday and Saturday in the first step toward resuming operations at the plant, which has been shut down since early February when a truck caught fire in a separate incident.
Air tests were done on a shaft and elevator system used to take personnel underground as well as the shaft that provides ventilation below the surface. Initial results indicate no contamination in the air or on the measuring equipment, officials said.