U.S. Overseers Fault Nuclear-Waste Practices for New Mexico Leak

Global Security Newswire Staff
April 24, 2014, 9:19 a.m.

Fed­er­al ex­perts blamed shoddy pre­cau­tions and ad­min­is­trat­ive prac­tices for a leak at a New Mex­ico nuc­le­ar-waste site, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ports.

A “de­grad­a­tion of key safety man­age­ment and safety cul­ture” was cent­ral to the Feb. 14 con­tam­in­a­tion breach at the Waste Isol­a­tion Pi­lot Plant, said Ted Wyka, head of the En­ergy De­part­ment Ac­ci­dent In­vest­ig­a­tion Board. He dis­cussed pan­el find­ings that were sched­uled for pub­lic­a­tion on Thursday.

“The bot­tom line is they failed to be­lieve ini­tial in­dic­a­tions of the re­lease,” Wyka said.

The site’s sub­ter­ranean tun­nels have re­mained off-lim­its to most per­son­nel fol­low­ing the in­cid­ent, which took place days after an un­re­lated vehicle fire. An ad­vance crew on Wed­nes­day re-entered a stor­age area where es­caped ra­dio­act­ive ma­ter­i­al had been loc­ated last week, but the group did not find any in­dic­a­tion that a ceil­ing had fallen or a waste bar­rel had rup­tured.

Per­son­nel took more than 10 hours to re­act to the ini­tial alert in Feb­ru­ary, and a vent­il­a­tion mech­an­ism al­lowed un­filtered air to pass out of the fa­cil­ity, ac­cord­ing to the En­ergy De­part­ment as­sess­ment. In­vest­ig­at­ors faul­ted fol­low-up ac­tions by the de­part­ment, as well as the site’s emer­gency pre­pared­ness, re­pair sched­ule, and a lack of plans for pla­cing con­tam­in­a­tion sensors.

De­fense Nuc­le­ar Fa­cil­it­ies Safety Board Chair­man Peter Winok­ur said 100 times more ra­di­ation might have drif­ted above ground had work­ers not re­act­iv­ated a warn­ing sys­tem dis­abled for roughly six days after the fire, the Wall Street Journ­al re­por­ted on Wed­nes­day.

An En­ergy De­part­ment spokes­wo­man said the agency “is as­sess­ing all as­pects” of the fire and leak, and an­ti­cip­ates “some sig­ni­fic­ant changes.”

Bob Mc­Quinn, head of the con­tract firm Nuc­le­ar Waste Part­ner­ship, ac­know­ledged faults in the re­sponse moun­ted by the fa­cil­ity’s op­er­at­or, AP re­por­ted. He af­firmed that re­forms be­ing made in ad­min­is­trat­ive pro­ced­ures, per­son­nel pre­par­a­tions and oth­er activ­it­ies would “as­sure that every haz­ard that is posed by WIPP is ex­amined.”

What We're Following See More »
Libertarians Getting a Second Look?
1 hours ago
Trump Floats Gingrich, Kasich as Running Mates
2 hours ago

Newt Gringrich is actively positioning himself as a possible VP nominee for Donald Trump, according to National Review. After a New York Times piece mentioned him as a possible running mate, he said, "It is an honor to be mentioned. We need a new Contract with America to outline a 100-day plan to take back Washington from the lobbyists, bureaucrats, unions, and leftists. After helping in 1980 with Reagan and 1995 as speaker I know we have to move boldly and decisively before the election results wear off and the establishment starts fighting us. That is my focus." Meanwhile, Trump told CNN he'd be "interested in vetting" John Kasich as well.

House Dems Push on Puerto Rico, Citing Zika
3 hours ago

"House Democrats are stepping up pressure on Republicans to advance legislation addressing Puerto Rico’s worsening debt crisis by issuing a report arguing that austerity cuts can’t be sustained and have made the island more vulnerable to the mosquito-borne Zika virus." Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee released a report yesterday that argued "further sharp reductions in government spending can’t be a part of a legislative solution"—especially with a rainy season boosting the mosquito population and stressing an island health system already struggling to deal with the Zika virus.

Clapper: ISIS Can Stage Attacks in U.S.
3 hours ago

"ISIS has the capability to stage a Paris-style attack in the U.S. using local cells to strike in multiple locations and inflict dozens of casualties, according to the Obama administration's top U.S. intelligence official." Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told CNN's Peter Bergen that such a scenario is "something we worry about a lot in the United States, that they could conjure up a raid like they did in Paris or Brussels."

Trump to Name VP Search Committee
4 hours ago

"Donald J. Trump said on Wednesday that he expected to reveal his vice presidential pick sometime in July—before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland—but added that he would soon announce a committee to handle the selection process, which would include Dr. Ben Carson." He said he's inclined to name a traditional political figure, unlike himself.