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


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: [intlink id=”alarm-unusually-high-radiation-levels-found-nuclear-site-govt-weve-never-level-like-amount-employees-sequestered-place-unclear-radiation-released-video” type=”post”]{{empty}}[/intlink]

See also: [intlink id=”la-times-expert-says-radiological-process-may-have-forced-material-out-of-its-container-at-u-s-nuclear-site-it-could-be-a-mess-officials-saying-little-about-extent-of-problem-or-how-to” type=”post”]{{empty}}[/intlink]

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


Related Posts

  1. ‘New tests show elevated radiation’ near U.S. nuclear site — ‘More airborne radiation detected’ around WIPP — Gov’t issues press release on ‘radiological event’ (MAP) February 24, 2014
  2. Official: 4.4 mil disintegration of alpha radiation detected at leaking U.S. nuclear site, includes Plutonium; Highest recorded level — Santa Fe Briefing: “Serious incident involving radiation at the WIPP site” — Gov’t “reaching out to employees who are worried” about exposure February 24, 2014
  3. 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) February 16, 2014
  4. Radiation spikes at WIPP nuclear facility — Hits highest levels since initial hours of radioactive release in February — Document link removed from official website — Gov’t analyzing samples for “potential impact on human health” June 27, 2014
  5. TV: Radioactive waste containers may be “smashed and opened” after roof collapse at leaking U.S. nuclear site — Official: We believe there’s been a breach… “It’s a very serious thing” — ‘Seismic event’ mentioned — High levels of alpha and beta radiation detected (VIDEO) February 21, 2014

229 comments to 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

  • PhilipUpNorth PhilipUpNorth

    A Brief History of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP:

    Built just east of Carlsbad, New Mexico, completed in 1988.
    The first nuclear waste arrived to the plant on March 26, 1999.

    A blast ruptured a plutonium storage cask on February 16, 2014.
    The storage facility has been evacuated.
    No worker can ever re-enter the storage facility.

    WIPP was designed to contain high level nuclear waste for 10,000 years.
    Instead of securing the waste for 10,000 years, the facility functioned for less than 15 years.
    Yet another nuclear industry success story? You betcha! 😉

    • HoTaters HoTaters

      From Wikipedisa, a quote from the article above (from PhilipUpNorth)P

      Message for the future
      2007 ISO radioactivity danger logo

      "Since 1983, the DOE has been working with linguists, archeologists/anthropologists, materials scientists, science fiction writers, and futurists to come up with a warning system. For the case of the WIPP, the markers, called "passive institutional controls", will include an outer perimeter of 32, 25-foot (7.6 m)-tall granite pillars built in a four-mile (6 km) square. These pillars will surround an earthen wall, 33 feet (10 m) tall and 100 feet (30 m) wide. Enclosed within this wall will be another 16 granite pillars. At the center, directly above the waste site, will sit a roofless, 15-foot (4.6 m) granite room providing more information. The team intends to etch warnings and informational messages into the granite slabs and pillars."

      Obviously the warning system isn't working in the present. Isn't that the chief concern for present generations?

  • Speedy

    Is this where our government is working on NSWR ? (Nuclear Salt Water Rockets)….or is that another secret? Shhhhhh.

  • jec jec

    WIPP is an EPA site. Looking at EPA information to determine the 'safety' of air borne Plutonium or the 'safe' becomes very very clear..there are NONE. EPA mentions danger of 'air borne' PU! Remember John Wayne and almost his entire crew of actors/film crew died of various forms of cancer due to exposure to dust in a nearby desert area! One statement is 10 millirems of radionucleides is the EPA level for one year for a person..(not a baby) just a person..and nothing called out on WHAT radioactive products they reference. AND nothing to tell people how to accumulate the doses from ingestion/air/water! EPA does say there is a doctors test to determine if a person is exposed to PU. Other bone, urine tests are available but must be done in a special lab. So if anyone lives in the area, they should be able to go to their doctors for a PU 'test' for exposure and bill OBAMACARE! (sarcasm).

  • mt1000

    At 1 P.M. today, THURS. (N.M. time) the DOE etc. will be doing a press conference and it will be on local tv KRQE.
    See morning newscast (picture link) upper right side of this page –

    • califnative califnative (NY)

      mt1000 thanks for the heads up on the DOE press conference.

    • rogerthat

      In the Current Argus report, Hardy talks about ''the normal background levels of radioactivity from transuranic elements commonly found at this sampling station.''
      So there are ''normal background levels'' of plutonium around the site?

      • rogerthat

        Also: ''Heaton and Hardy both agree that the americium and plutonium isotopes are so heavy, that they won't travel far from the original source.''
        This was one of the oft-repeated claims made about plutonium at Fukushima: that even if some had been released (but dont be silly of course it hadn't), it would not travel far because it was heavy. Not that plutonium was a topic of conversation, it remains pretty well a banned word in Japanese media and discourse to this day. Imagine the surprise of the tracking stations in Lithuania and New Mexico which measured plutonium from Fukushima. (I imagine it was picked up by tracking stations all over the world, and one day in the far distant future, if we have one, they will tell us about it, he said optimistically)

      • HoTaters HoTaters

        "Background levels" of Americium and Plutonium. Now that's a bunch of happy horse pucky.

        • HoTaters HoTaters

          There are no "Normal background levels" of Americium & Plutonium, which are man made (the ones we're addressing here, the ones from nuclear waste).

          Trace amounts of Plutonium can be found in Uranium ore, but only in trace amounts. To refer to a "normal background level" of Plutonium is a fallacy.

          It is said Americium formation may have occurred during earth's formation, but all naturally occurring Americium should have disappeared by now.

          This "natural background" statement is pure hooey, weasel wording.

          "Caveat emptor," let the buyer beware (tongue in cheek)

  • jec jec

    NETC Carsbad NM radiation site shows a significant spike on Feb 12, 2014 to 290. I mention this as this is the day of the 'reported' radiation event. Now, to me a 'radiation event' means a reaction..a cask exploded? So what was in the cask? Plutonium we know, AM we know. HUM..a bomb parts?Explosions don't come from contaminated clothing or shovels..

    • PhilipUpNorth PhilipUpNorth

      This file photo shows the kind of casks that are stored at the WIPP site.
      These are hauled down by elevator, and put on cradles crosswise in each "panel", their name for a waste storage tunnel.
      They were working on filling panel 7.
      Panel 6 was full, and they were sealing it with a monolithic concrete plug.

      My guess at this point is that one of these casks went boom.
      There was a lot of black smoke around the vent in one of the newspaper photos, published this morning on
      Big jump in plutonium radiation nearby reported today by
      This means that plutonium reached critical mass inside a cask, exploding with enough force to rupture the cask.

      We will be lucky if the reaction doesn't involve other casks.
      Perhaps a meltdown is in progress,
      A meltdown might melt the cradles of adjacent casks, which would then fall into the molten plutonium and melt.
      The "worst case scenerio" at WIPP could get very ugly, indeed.
      Apparently, the DOE is not telling the press what they know about conditions in Panel 6 & 7.
      FOIAs have been filed by the local newspaper.
      This event is far from over.
      How many of the other casks down there were packed without regard to the consequences of plutonium reaching critical mass?
      And apparently, we're hauling multiple casks on flatbed trucks all around the Interstate Highway System!
      Really? 😉

  • mt1000

    Just sent in to —
    FOI doc for the site. Westinghouse has a waste disposal division.

  • FallOut FallOut

    People on site in New Mexico were inhaling AT LEAST 1 TRILLION Plutonium atoms every 3.6 hours, based on a measurement taken 1/2 Mile away. The source was likely an underground radioactive explosion.

    UPDATE: CEMRC reports they found 0.64 Bq of Americium 241 & 0.092 Bq of Plutonium 239+240 in the air filter 1/2 mi away from WIPP

  • 52Rockwell

    Wind today is blowing it right to us here in Texas.

  • Tiza Tiza

    All of this stuff should be over every news station, but you just don't hear much of nothing. Most people still don't know.

    • Au Au

      Top stories here that got quite a bit of air time-

      Bowling for Dollars, But Where are the Dollars?
      "I bowled and never got paid a dime…"

      Just where are THOSE dollars?

      Father Videos Kids Slipping on the Ice
      "Oh, hahaha, there goes another one! haha! And another. oops! Slip! haha!"


  • SadieDog

    How tumbleweeds, badgers and bunnies spread radiation from US nuclear sites…

  • PhilipUpNorth PhilipUpNorth

    Texas will get most of the plutonium from WIPP today.
    But the tight low in the midwest has winds coming down and around from Colorado, which deflects the plume to the SE.
    Stay safe today, Texans!

    • PhilipUpNorth PhilipUpNorth

      Retract above remarks, based on winds today. Retract!

      Potrblog shows wind map at time of major release from WIPP, shown to travel to the north into Colorado.
      (Not into Texas!)

      Alert! Alert!
      Given that the winds blew north after the plutonium release from WIPP, these winds could right now be over the Midwest, coming to the East Coast tonight!

      The winds are strong, as a result of a major mixing of warm and cold air in a vigirous low pressure area in the midwest.

      These winds have drawn in the Plutonium plume from New Mexico!

      My simple take on the Potrblog Maximum Alert is this:
      A very powerful low pressure area in the midwest right now has pulled all the plutonium from Carlsbad's WIPP into the low.

      If this low goes over you, do NOT go out. Close all windows, keep doors closed. Call all residents of your house to return home, and shelter in place for tonight.
      Do not go out!
      Safeguard your home from all people coming in. (Boots off at the door, coats on hooks at the door.)

      People living on the East Coast, shelter in place for 24 hours as this low passes!

      I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord.
      Plutonium in the air, tonight, oh Lord!
      Oh Lord! 😉

  • SadieDog

    Environmental impact statement from DOE, on disposing of plutonium in US. More info than you can shake a stick at…

  • Per the DOE website

    Project facilities include disposal rooms mined 2,150 feet underground in a 2,000 square foot thick salt formation.

    WIPP from the DOE website—-

    Huh? 2000 square foot thick? I think they better review their engineering units of measure, LOL. Gives you a lot of confidence, right?

    And this picture is also from the DOE website, on the front page. I guess they are proud of using the "quality" plastic wrap to secure these carbon steel 55 gallon drums before they dump them into the corrosive salt cave. Wow, just wow.

    Real nice….2 guys standing around watching one guy work, wrapping up barrels that are still labelled as "Empty" if you look closely. On the front page of their website. That just doesnt give me the warm and fuzzy feeling.

  • razzz razzz

    Black smoke, huh?


    L@@K at the newspaper today about the WIPP nuclear waste release, miniscule levels safe! LOL

    • newsblackoutUSA newsblackoutUSA

      WWJD, it is only a few little grams of plutonium…nothing to worry about folks…there is a blue light special on adult diapers in aisle 3, you'll want to stock up on those. 😉

      • obewanspeaks obewanspeaks

        My eye catheter invention is almost complete for catching the excess blood squirting/draining from the eyes. 🙂 Still working on the personal body paper towel dispenser though..may have to do some crowd source funding. Tesla my have some interest in my car package.. 🙂


      This is interesting information about the WIPP event:

  • Tiza Tiza

    This is very bad. Hope those in the area stay safe, and who knows who's going to be downwind from it.

    • GQR2

      It is really bad. 🙁
      The winds are swirling today in NE NM. and the NETC counts are up in Texas Tiza. POTR is doing a fantastic job. He ought to get a Medal for his reporting. Very Grateful to POTR. i got a mask out this morning.

      Hang in there, peace to all

  • Nick

    Ever seen a puff ball explode?

    Now think canister.

    Perhaps being dollied by a robot…

    Woooommmfffffff! Oops.

    Detector: whoop whoop whoop.

    Operator: Shit. What the hell was that? Hey Mike did you hear that boom? The alarm? Houston I think we have a problem.

    Manager: Hey Joe, we gotta think fast here. Did you say oops? I know what I mean when I say oops. What do you mean when you say oops.

    Operator: Ooops.

    Manager: Okay. I'll get right on the media gag and the POTUS briefing will go forward.

    How do you spell plutonium again?

  • Nick

    People seem to be perplexed by "dust" from the nuclear waste.

    Inside TMI they found that 1/3 of the core not only melted, but dusted as well, small nano-bits of fluff, very nasty.

    It is not surprising that a puff ball type of event happened, not at all.

    But then I will be going to my grave ranting and raving about the lunacy of nuclear waste storage (it can't be done).

  • tpak tpak


    $6.5 BILLION for new NPP here in the US just announced by energy secretary…May our children forgive us

    Anyone here in DC want to go mount a protest outside the White House DOE or NRC in Rockville??

    We gotta do something. I can't just sit here and read this sh–. This is HORRIFIC!!!!

  • TheBigPicture TheBigPicture

    AS ALWAYS . .

    Citizens downwind don't get warning for airborne radiation releases.

  • They have been warned….but as usual, no one pays attention, and they have to learn the HARD way.

    Long Term Nuclear Waste Storage Fatal Flaw By Dr. Busby; via A Green Road

    • The Fallacy Of High Level Nuclear Waste Geological Storage; via A Green Road Blog

    • Wyakin Wyakin

      DGH-good information. As we know, no known technology exists to safely store nuclear trash by-products. “Geologic storage is a solution to a public relations problem, not a solution to a safety problem.” (Dr. Gorgan Edwards)

      It is insane to create more NP trash either through commercial or military applications, both of which are inexorably intertwined and symbiotic in nature.

      The choice of a nation to develop nuclear weapons is a choice to make that entire nation a nuclear factory. In the US, that fateful choice has resulted in radioactive waste that has been spread over significant geographic areas. Much of the related contamination data has been hidden though secrecy, and some from bureaucratic incompetence.

      In the US, the DOE has done a remarkably poor job of tracking, managing, and remediating military waste scattered from sea to shining sea, or even acknowledging commercial waste containment limitations. Contaminated locations remain unidentified and may be in the midst of large populations,etc. PU and U fissile materials and waste refining byproducts will not disappear for hundreds of thousands of years.

      The WSJ produced a US map in October 2013 which illustrates those waste sites that the WSJ was able to identify, with their current status noted. There are likely many more waste sites waiting to be identified.

      I suspect the US experience is not that different from those of other nuclear nations.

      • Wyakin Wyakin

        “A Nuclear Cleanup Effort Leaves Questions Lingering at Scores of Old Sites Years Later, the Legacy of the U.S. Arms Buildup Remains Near Homes, Parks and Malls” (WSJ, 10/30/13)

        Apologies-link may require account access. Salient points:

        “Residue, left by the routine processing as well as the occasional mishandling of nuclear material, exists in sites in almost three dozen states.

        Some remains in public parks, some near schools, and some in the walls, floors and ceilings of commercial buildings.

        Contamination has been detected on hiking trails in residential neighborhoods, in vacant city lots and in groundwater.

        Record-keeping has been so spotty that the Energy Department says it doesn't have enough documentation on several dozen sites to decide whether a cleanup is needed or not.

        Despite years of trying to track these sites, the government doesn't have the exact address for dozens of them. It acknowledges it doesn't even know what state one uranium-handling facility was located in.

        More than 20 sites initially declared safe by the government have required additional cleanups, sometimes more than once.”

        Nuclear residue (trash) in 36 states, equals 72% of the US state jurisdictions. How many of the affected citizens were asked for their consent for exposure to low/mid level radiation?

        Unfortunately, the NM WIPP will be no different.

      • Wyakin Wyakin

        PS. Dr "Gorgan" Edwards is the alter ego of my tablet. "Dr. Gorden Edwards" was the intended source. 🙂

  • rockyourworld

    you can run, but you cant hide

  • HoTaters HoTaters

    The PR machine at work as usual. SOP (standard operating procudure during radiological releases):

    " … it’s important to note that radiation levels have been “very low and are well below any level of public and environmental hazard.”

    Have been trying to call an elderly friend there to warn here for over a week. Can't reach her daughter either. Sigh. It's frustrating.

    • HoTaters HoTaters

      The usual blah, blah, blah, and yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. Next we have the latest news on Kim Kardashian, who has gotten her bathing suit booty back, and she's here to show us how much better motherhood has made her body. So just stay tuned for your daily dose of infotainment, and go back to sleep, sleeple.

  • dharmasyd dharmasyd

    1 millionth gram of PU inhaled causes cancer. 1 pound of PU distributed evenly over the planet kills everybody. Info from Helen Caldicott as reported on Green Road blog and Rense among many, many others. Try to enjoy whatever life we have left!

  • NEW information on the Plutonium leaking site WIPP–

    Large cracks in the WIPP ceilings show extremely weak structural characteristics of the salt, and that it has been bandaged together with chicken wire in most of the storage rooms. Having highly corrosive salt fall onto barrels of plutonium, just doesn't seem like a smart thing me, call me overly cautious.

    First these nuke pimps store the plutonium on top of the reactors themselves to save money (as if that makes any sense if any proper risk control scenario), and then they go store it in a weak and highly corrosive salt excavation. Wow.

    In some rooms they reinforced some of the walls with brick, see picture at bottom….no reinforcing steel! Just silly 19th century "brick technology". And these are our best and brightest scientists?


    Per the initial report from the monitoring agency at the University

    Additionally, a third ambient air sampling station located approximately 109 yards northwest of the WIPP exhaust shaft and within the WIPP property protection area (PPA) has not been analyzed at this time because CEMRC personnel were not able to access the area for collection of the filter until Tuesday, February 18th at approximately 9:00 am. Results from this filter will be released once the destructive analysis and radiochemical separation/counting processes have been…

    • lam335 lam335

      Hmmm… "destructive analysis" of the evidence–I mean, "data" …

      I'm sure the numbers they will announce will show there's no cause for concern.

  • released once the destructive analysis and radiochemical separation/counting processes have been performed.
    As of Saturday night, the 22nd, I have check their website, and they have not updated with the results from this near exhaust shaft filter. That is very suspicious, considering this is a Plutonium leak as the first underground test facility. Hmmmm…..4 and 1/2 days, and no results after a Plutonium leak. I wonder if they are discussing how they are going to "communicate" the results.
    Here is their website so you can go check yourself.

    • combomelt combomelt

      as stated, "our best & brightest".
      here's a snippet of WIPP's own storage permit guidelines:

      "According to the TSDF-WAC, certain waste forms with specific characteristics are not allowed at the WIPP facility. Waste with liquid in excess of the TSDF-WAC limits is one waste form that is not allowed. Other limitations include, but are not limited to, a prohibition on pyrophoric materials, corrosive materials, ignitable waste, and compressed gases.
      Furthermore, TRU waste must contain 100 nanocuries or more of
      transuranic elements per gram of waste, which means that the radioactive component of the waste will always be present within the waste in significant concentrations. The TSDF-WAC limitations and restrictions are provided to ensure that any waste form received at the WIPP facility is stable and can be managed safely.
      One benefit of waste form restrictions, such as no liquid in excess of the TSDF-WAC limits, is that they limit the kinds of releases that could occur to those that would be readily detectable through visual inspection (i.e., large objects that fall out of ruptured containers) or through the use of radiation monitoring either locally or within the adjacent area to detect materials that have
      escaped from containers. "
      Really doesn't instill any confidence whatsoever.

  • combomelt combomelt

    Even a 4th grader would know that WIPP was a bad idea…..

    "The trace amounts of brine from the salt at the repository horizon will not degrade the main concrete barrier for at least 35 years."
    (whew I feel SOO much better now!)
    "In 20 years, the open passage above the waste stack would be reduced in size. Further, rooms with bulkheads at each end would be isolated in the panel. It is unlikely that a long passage with an open geometry would exist; therefore, the dynamic analysis considered a deflagration with a peak explosive pressure of 240 psi."

    "It was shown (DOE, 1995) that an explosive atmosphere may exist after approximately 20 years." –
    Really? Ya think?!!!?
    I think a revision is in order here. Scale that back about a decade!.

    true negligence. demons abound

    And they think its safe to store mixed plutonium casks and barrels there??!??
    Their own report above illuminates their negligence and guilt in this lethal illegal operation.

    What amount of money or immunity would make any state governor (in this case NM) accept the construction, filling, closure and monitoring of such a facility???????HOW MUCH GOVERNOR???? WHO TURNED THE SCREWS ON YA?? SOMEONE once said "follow the money, dummy" – this aint no difrent!"
    underground storage is NOT a solution to rad wastes of any type. There is no solution

  • Oceania - foreknowledge of pain Oceania - foreknowledge of pain


    TV: Radioactive waste containers may be “smashed and opened” after roof collapse at leaking U.S. nuclear site — Official: We believe there’s been a breach… “It’s a very serious thing” — ‘Seismic event’ mentioned — High levels of alpha and beta radiation detected


    Russell Hardy, director of CEMRC, Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center emphasized that the radiation levels found a half mile northwest of WIPP are no more dangerous than radiation the public has already been exposed to.

    "There's plutonium and americium in our environment from prior detonations of nuclear weapons and from some satellites that have fallen out of orbit and lost their payload, so there's naturally occurring americium and plutonium in the environment that falls out and lands in the soil," Hardy said.

    THAT NATURAL PLUTONIUM AMERICIUM IS JUST NATURES WAY OF SAYING TODAY IS YOUR LUCKY DAY – glad we are protected by such a well informed spokesman.

    A falling satellite is not natural, it is criminal ; knowingly introducing deadly radionuclides to the atmosphere.