Equipment Delivery Delays Venture Into New Mexico Atomic Site

Global Security Newswire Staff
April 2, 2014, 7:33 a.m.

A delayed de­liv­ery of ra­di­ation-mon­it­or­ing equip­ment scuttled a team’s planned Tues­day entry of a va­cated nuc­le­ar waste site, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ports.

The still-pending ar­rival of wear­able ra­dio­activ­ity mon­it­ors promp­ted the En­ergy De­part­ment to delay send­ing a team in­to the Waste Isol­a­tion Pi­lot Plant’s sub­ter­ranean cor­ridors, spokes­man Ben Wil­li­ams said.

The group’s planned des­cent would mark the first ven­ture by per­son­nel in­to the New Mex­ico atom­ic-waste buri­al site since de­tect­ors there picked up the pres­ence of air­borne ra­dio­act­ive particles in Feb­ru­ary. The in­cid­ent ex­posed no few­er than 21 em­ploy­ees to ra­di­ation and res­ul­ted in con­tam­in­ants es­cap­ing to the out­side en­vir­on­ment in trace amounts.

Au­thor­it­ies have yet to de­term­ine the sever­ity of ra­dio­activ­ity in the fa­cil­ity’s waste stor­age area, which is loc­ated more than 2,600 feet be­low the earth’s sur­face. The source of the ori­gin­al con­tam­in­a­tion leak also re­mains un­clear.

Mean­while, Los Alam­os Na­tion­al Labor­at­ory on Wed­nes­day said it has star­ted send­ing nuc­le­ar waste to a private site in Texas for tem­por­ary stor­age. Pri­or to Feb­ru­ary’s ra­di­ation leak, the Waste Isol­a­tion Pi­lot Plant was re­ceiv­ing ma­ter­i­al that the New Mex­ico labor­at­ory had pledged to send away by the middle of this year.

“Our com­mit­ment to the state of New Mex­ico is to re­move the waste stored above ground so it would not pose a risk in the event of an­oth­er wild­fire in Los Alam­os,” says an e-mailed state­ment by Pete Mag­giore, an of­fi­cial with the En­ergy De­part­ment’s Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion. 

Mag­giore said the stor­age site in An­drews, Texas, “is the best op­tion avail­able to en­sure the lab meets its com­mit­ment without delay.”

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