Radiation-Leak Investigators Shift Sights to Los Alamos Lab

Global Security Newswire Staff
June 27, 2014, 9:29 a.m.

Los Alam­os Na­tion­al Labor­at­ory is now at the cen­ter of a fed­er­al in­quiry in­to a leak at a New Mex­ico nuc­le­ar-waste fa­cil­ity, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ports.

En­ergy De­part­ment ac­ci­dent in­vest­ig­at­ors have been work­ing at Los Alam­os for roughly three weeks in con­nec­tion with the Feb­ru­ary ra­di­ation leak at the Waste Isol­a­tion Pi­lot Plant, a state en­vir­on­ment of­fi­cial said in com­ments quoted by AP on Thursday. A con­tain­er from the nuc­le­ar-weapons labor­at­ory rup­tured in the un­der­ground re­pos­it­ory in Feb­ru­ary, spread­ing con­tam­in­ants to 22 work­ers and for­cing per­son­nel out of much of the site.

The En­ergy De­part­ment probe was one of nine look­ing in­to the ra­di­ation re­lease, said Jeff Kend­all, gen­er­al coun­sel for the New Mex­ico En­vir­on­ment De­part­ment.

He said the waste fa­cil­ity near Carls­bad and the Los Alam­os labor­at­ory each face a high like­li­hood of re­ceiv­ing pen­al­ties tied to the in­cid­ent as new de­tails be­come avail­able. Los Alam­os may have sent more than 350 rup­ture-prone waste drums to the waste com­plex, and over 100 ad­di­tion­al prob­lem­at­ic con­tain­ers to a com­mer­cial stor­age site in An­drews, Texas.

Kend­all ad­ded that the En­ergy De­part­ment would in­form New Mex­ico next month of “how the re­cov­ery plan is work­ing,” as well as “dead­lines, dates and timelines” for scrub­bing the site of er­rant ra­dio­act­ive particles and re­sum­ing op­er­a­tions there.

It re­mains un­clear when the waste fa­cil­ity may re­open. One Justice De­part­ment of­fi­cial, though, down­played the pos­sib­il­ity of the site re­main­ing per­man­ently closed.

“I don’t fore­see that. Nobody is con­tem­plat­ing a clos­ure of WIPP,” said Eileen Mc­Donough, a fed­er­al at­tor­ney rep­res­ent­ing the En­ergy De­part­ment.

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