Team Poised to Enter Site of New Mexico Nuclear-Waste Leak

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Global Security Newswire Staff
March 28, 2014, 7:59 a.m.

An eight-mem­ber team is set to enter a nuc­le­ar-waste buri­al site to scope out the source and sever­ity of a con­tam­in­a­tion leak, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ports.

The En­ergy De­part­ment on Thursday said the group would des­cend in­to the Waste Isol­a­tion Pi­lot Plant’s sub­ter­ranean stor­age sec­tion next week. Un­der­ground por­tions of the New Mex­ico site have been off-lim­its to per­son­nel since the de­tec­tion of es­caped ra­dio­act­ive ma­ter­i­al there in Feb­ru­ary.

DOE of­fi­cials said they laid plans for the ini­tial re-entry after per­son­nel fin­ished check­ing ducts that the team would use to ac­cess the site, which is loc­ated more than 2,500 feet be­low the earth’s sur­face.

The de­part­ment ad­ded that it is check­ing for signs of ra­di­ation ex­pos­ure in four ad­di­tion­al site per­son­nel. Phys­ic­al ex­am­in­a­tions have already con­firmed traces of ra­dio­act­ive con­tam­in­ants in 17 work­ers, but of­fi­cials have said the ex­pos­ure was re­l­at­ively minor.

Sep­ar­ately, the En­ergy De­part­ment said it would be­gin check­ing ground, air and plant samples from 10 more nearby loc­a­tions for sur­face-level con­tam­in­ants. The ad­di­tion­al scru­tiny would cov­er the loc­al towns of Artesia, Eu­nice, Hobbs and Lov­ing, as well as oth­er jur­is­dic­tions.

So far, de­tec­tion activ­it­ies at the nearby town of Carls­bad have turned up ra­dio­activ­ity only at in­tens­it­ies con­sidered to be in­sig­ni­fic­ant.

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