New Air Tests Show No Contaminants at U.S. Nuclear-Waste Site

Global Security Newswire Staff
March 10, 2014, 10:24 a.m.

New checks turned up no es­caped ra­dio­act­ive particles in a U.S. waste-buri­al site placed off lim­its be­cause of a leak last month, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ports.

Still, site ad­min­is­trat­ors left open the pos­sib­il­ity that es­caped ra­dio­act­ive ma­ter­i­als were linger­ing else­where in the un­der­ground stor­age area of the Waste Isol­a­tion Pi­lot Plant.

Work­ers used air- and salt-trans­fer tun­nels to place ra­di­ation scan­ners in por­tions of the New Mex­ico fa­cil­ity on Fri­day and Sat­urday, and the de­tec­tion gear was “not in the air­flow path com­ing from the area where the ra­di­ation re­lease ori­gin­ated,” ac­cord­ing to a joint press re­lease by the En­ergy De­part­ment and the Nuc­le­ar Waste Part­ner­ship, the stor­age site’s man­aging con­tract­or.

Over­seers barred per­son­nel from en­ter­ing the sub­ter­ranean com­plex fol­low­ing the de­tec­tion of es­caped con­tam­in­ants in­side the fa­cil­ity in Feb­ru­ary. Trace amounts of ra­dio­act­ive particles also turned up above the sur­face at the site, loc­ated roughly two dozen miles from the town of Carls­bad.

A team of spe­cial­ists could des­cend in­to the stor­age area later this week to en­sure its cor­ridors are not in danger of col­lapsing, and to at­tempt to track down the ori­gin of the ra­di­ation leak, the of­fi­cials said. Upon loc­at­ing the point where con­tam­in­ants were es­cap­ing, the per­son­nel would seal it off and ex­ecute a strategy to trans­fer it out, ac­cord­ing to the Sunday state­ment.

Sep­ar­ately, ad­min­is­trat­ors said they had found evid­ence of ra­di­ation ex­pos­ure in four ad­di­tion­al per­son­nel, rais­ing the total num­ber of af­fected work­ers to 17.

“The levels of ex­pos­ure are ex­tremely low, and none of the em­ploy­ees is ex­pec­ted to ex­per­i­ence any health ef­fects from the ex­pos­ures,” the state­ment says.

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