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 »
"The Trump administration is proposing a budget it says will increase defense spending by $54 billion and cut non-defense spending by the same amount. The White House is sending a topline budget proposal reflecting those figures to federal agencies on Monday afternoon, according to an Office of Management and Budget official." An unnamed OMB official said most federal agencies would face cutbacks.
Donald Trump announced in a tweet on Saturday that he would not attend the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in April. The move did not come as a surprise, another moment in his ongoing battle with the media, which he has dubbed the "enemy" of the American people and repeatedly refers to as "fake news." Multiple outlets have already cancelled their events surrounding the dinner and several are considering skipping the event outright.
Phillip Bilden, Donald Trump's nominee for Navy secretary, has decided to withdraw his nomination after he was unable to sufficiently untangle his financial commitments. Bilden follows Vincent Viola, who withdrew his nomination for Army secretary.
"The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate."