Airborne plutonium detected outside troubled U.S. nuclear facility — Expert: ‘Radiation event’ appears to have occurred, leading to a release; “Levels are highest ever detected” around site

Published: February 19th, 2014 at 6:31 pm ET
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Carlsbad Current-Argus, Feb. 19, 2014: Traces of radiation have been found approximately half a mile northwest of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant [...] Tests by the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center [...] showed evidence of trace amounts of americium and plutonium on an air filter Wednesday afternoon [...] [CEMRC director Russell] Hardy said even though trace amounts of radiation were detected between Tuesday and Sunday, it’s important to note that radiation levels have been “very low and are well below any level of public and environmental hazard.”

Press release from Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, Feb. 19, 2014: “The levels detected during this time period are higher than the normal background levels of radioactivity from transuranic elements commonly found at this sampling station, thus their presence during this specific time frame appears to indicate a small release of radioactive particles from the WIPP underground exhaust shaft in the brief moments following when the radiation event occurred and when the WIPP ventilation system shifted to the filtration mode.”

AP, Feb. 19, 2014: [...] radiation [is] in the air a half-mile from the site [...] radioactive isotopes americium and plutonium [...] [Hardy] says the levels are the highest ever detected at or around the site but are far below those deemed unsafe by the Environmental Protection Agency. The readings came after a radiation alert over the weekend from an underground sensor at the site. Hardy says readings will be completed next week on filters collected from that underground sensor and an air monitor closer to the plant.

Initial ENE report from Sunday: 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)

See also: LA Times: Expert says 'radiological process' may have forced material out of container at US nuclear site, "Could be a mess"; Officials saying little about extent of problem -- Levels remain too high to let in non-essential personnel -- Air monitors not allowed to collect filters

Published: February 19th, 2014 at 6:31 pm ET
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