Alarm after ‘unusually high’ radiation levels at U.S. nuclear site — Gov’t: “We’ve never seen a level like we are seeing… I can’t tell you the amount” — Could be Plutonium — ‘Unclear’ how much radiation released — Unprecedented event (VIDEO)

Published: February 16th, 2014 at 5:45 pm ET
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Reuters, Feb. 16, 2014 (emphasis added): Unusually high levels of radioactive particles were found at an underground nuclear waste site in New Mexico on Saturday in what a spokesman said looked like the first real alarm since the plant opened in 1999. [...] radioactive waste, such as plutonium used in defense research and nuclear weapon making, is dumped half a mile below ground […] But I believe it’s safe to say we’ve never seen a level like we are seeing. We just don’t know if it’s a real event, but it looks like one,” [Energy spokesman Roger Nelson] said. It was not yet clear what caused the air-monitoring system to indicate that radioactive particles were present at unsafe levels, Nelson said. [...]

AP, Feb. 16, 2014: WIPP [...] takes plutonium-contaminated waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory and other federal nuclear projects. [....] Nelson says the cause of the leak is not known [...] He couldn’t quantify the level it takes to trigger the monitors […] We are going to take measurements and make sure we understand it” before sending in a team, he said.

Carlsbad Current Argus, Feb. 16, 2014: “These are radionuclides that are of a hazard if inhaled [...] the primary concern for the release of this nature is (through) the ventilation passageway [...] I can’t tell you the amount or level but they were elevated and above normal, above background,” Nelson said of the radiation that was detected airborne near Panel 7, Room 7, in the south salt mine. According to Nelson this is the first time in WIPP’s 15-year history that the facility has had a CAM alarm detect this level of radiation underground […] WIPP entered emergency status less than two weeks ago, when an underground fire was reported […] underground operations have been suspended since the incident [...]

UPI, Feb. 16, 2014: [...] it was unclear exactly how much radiation has been released from the WIPP. “Additional sampling is going on. We have employees sequestered in place so that we minimize any potential for airborne inhalation,” [said Nelson.]

Watch the KREQ broadcast here

Published: February 16th, 2014 at 5:45 pm ET
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