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.