‘Container fire’ at WIPP may have resulted from ‘spontaneous combustion’ — Expert: “Could’ve crapped up a whole lot of real estate down there” — U.S. radioactive waste disposal system crippled? — Potential radiological consequences for public, City of Carlsbad “affected greater than any other section”

Published: March 8th, 2014 at 4:13 pm ET
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232 comments


Albuquerque Journal, Mar. 8, 2014: WIPP radiation leak was never supposed to happen — No one knows yet how or why a waste drum leaked [...] setting off a cascade of events that could cripple the nation’s radioactive waste disposal system. [...] before WIPP opened, the [DOE] put the risk of such an accident at one chance in 10,000 to one in 1 million during any given year of WIPP operations [...] only two possible scenarios [...] an exploding waste drum or a waste disposal room roof collapse. [...] “You could have crapped up a whole lot of real estate down there,” [Bob Neill, a radiation safety expert] said. The underground drum fire scenario [...] hypothesized the “spontaneous combustion” of a drum’s contents, rupturing and spreading the radioactive waste inside [a] one chance in 10,000 in any given year of WIPP operations. The “roof fall” scenario [...] was calculated at one chance in a million during a given year [and] could leave a large number of waste drums crushed and leaking. [...] Cleaning up contamination [would] risk of further spreading the contamination. [...] In a formal legal notice, the New Mexico Environment Department said, “It is believed … that the WIPP will be unable to resume normal activities for a protracted period of time.”

Albuquerque Journal, Mar. 8, 2014: Because no workers were believed to be present at the time of the Valentine’s Day leak, only two scenarios here are plausible based on what we currently know – the burst drum or roof fall.

Department of Energy, WIPP Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (pdf): WIPP Disposal Accidents– Eight potential accidents at WIPP during disposal operations were evaluated; they are shown in Table 5-18. [...] Potential radiological consequences to the public and maximally exposed noninvolved worker are substantially higher than hazardous chemical consequences, which are very small for most accident cases. Estimated results for members of the public, the maximally exposed noninvolved worker, and the maximally exposed involved worker are presented below and in Table 5-19. Public Population consequences from WIPP disposal accidents were estimated for the 22.5 degree sector west of the site, which includes the City of Carlsbad. The population in this sector is 25,629 and would be affected greater than any other section in the surrounding 80-kilometer (50-mile) region.

  • Container Fire — Contents of a drum in an underground disposal room spontaneously combusts prior to panel closure.
  • Roof Fall — A portion of a disposal room roof falls prior to panel closure, crushing drums and causing container breaches.

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: March 8th, 2014 at 4:13 pm ET
By

232 comments

Related Posts

  1. TV: Officials now confirm contamination from WIPP reached Carlsbad, New Mexico’s 10th most populated city — Container of radioactive waste may have “blew up” (VIDEO) March 10, 2014
  2. CBS News: “Potential ‘imminent’ threat from New Mexico nuclear waste” — Official: Risk of “substantial endangerment” to public health — 57 barrels of nuclear waste could rupture, came from multiple gov’t labs — ‘Unclear’ how many are now at WIPP — Being monitored for rise in temperature (VIDEO) May 20, 2014
  3. Officials: Leakage seen on “many” nuclear waste drums in WIPP underground — We think the seals have degraded — Public “should be concerned” about another explosion — 1,000s of radioactive drums now seen as too risky to move (VIDEO) June 13, 2014
  4. Plutonium found in city nearly 30 miles from US nuclear site — Newspaper: Explosion ‘melted through’ container causing radioactive release — More Pu-241 went airborne than all other types of plutonium combined, yet not included in test results September 11, 2014
  5. PHOTO: Broken roof bolts directly above WIPP nuclear waste were reported the day before radiation event — Cracks seen in nearby wall — “Heaving of bottom” may have taken place below broken bolts (VIDEO) April 24, 2014

232 comments to ‘Container fire’ at WIPP may have resulted from ‘spontaneous combustion’ — Expert: “Could’ve crapped up a whole lot of real estate down there” — U.S. radioactive waste disposal system crippled? — Potential radiological consequences for public, City of Carlsbad “affected greater than any other section”

  • FILTER BUILDING
    "There are more than 200 filters in the Filter Room of the Filter Building. If the filters get contaminated, a worker has to go into the contaminated area to remove the contaminated filters and put new ones in. The new filters will already be contaminated. The procedure should be that the workers first remove the filters, decontaminate the area, and then put in the new filters. It is possible to use a portable decontamination chamber and to do one room at a time. These filters are HEPA filters and have to be changed by hand, one at a time."
    http://www.nuclearactive.org/wipp/hearings/rloftus.html


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    • AirSepTech AirSepTech

      They will be something like this:

      http://www.aafintl.com/Products/Nuclear%20Products/Filters/Nuclear%20Grade%20HEPA%20Filters/Nuclear%20AstroCel%20I.aspx

      Rated at 1500 = 300 filters approx.

      It will be a miserable job. Non radioactive your in a suit/resp/or supplied air. Been there/done that. In a mining environment you have a host of 'stuff', nickel, cadmium, lead, mercury, arsenic, it is fine powder and impossible to keep clean. Wetting it down helps.

      The problem is the housing and the dirt all around where the filter mounts/seals. As soon as you move things, it just stirs/flies all around.

      As far as a rad area IDK, it would have to be treated like a semi conductor clean room. I take it when he said port. decon it would be for the guys going in and out and maybe to bag/seal filters.

      This will be a most s#itty job, there isn't enough money in it to risk it.


      Report comment

  • WhipRoutine

    Hi ENE,

    This is my first post. I live along one of the WIPP routes in NM. Well, all the routes pretty much come through here. We've been seeing the trucks come through for over a decade now.

    This article has finally prompted me to come online and tell what I've witnessed over the years. I'm a little scared. DHS agents come to your homes now around here to interrogate people.

    I'll start with this relative story:

    One day after the first shipments started moving down the highways, I was driving through Santa Fe County where I-25 and US 285 meet. One of the WIPP trucks that had the 3 stainless steel special shipping containers was parked just under the overpass of I-25. One of the containers had Black Smoke coming out of the top of the container. Blacker than diesel. My thought was 'what if that's plutonium waste'.

    Later that year I was at a community weed and debris burn at the local volunteer fire station. I asked one of the regulars what happened? Was it radioactive? Are we contaminated now in all these communities here. He shrugged his shoulders and said yes there was an incident and he couldn't talk about it. I kinda wonder if it was a training exercise. But who knows.

    One other time about 6 years ago, I saw one on Interstate 25 with smoke coming out of one of those kegs and I just went as fast as I could to get ahead of it and get upwind.

    I have more stories locally, I just don't know where to begin except here. I hope more people come…


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    • Great stuff, hope you have videos.

      At least you have WIPP-lash. NM seems to want to promote radiation, that is weird at best.


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      • WhipRoutine

        I'm not sure how to respond. When WIPP first started there were a bunch of public hearings where people protested taking the shipments right through downtown Santa Fe. They then built the 599 bypass which is ironically called The Veteran's Memorial Highway. The DOE promised the shipments would happen during low traffic hours in response to criticism about possible accidents during local rush hour.

        I commute regularly through that intersection of I-25 and US 285. It never fails that I see a WIPP truck or two coming from I-25 North turning on to 285 during rush hour with the most traffic on the roads.

        With possible contamination coming from each shipment (there are vents on top of those containers) and with the news there has been a plutonium release in Carlsbad wouldn't you wonder about the possible fires you witnessed in the past decade coming from those containers…ON THE ROADS? Wouldn't you wonder if we locally have been getting exposed all along?


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        • Yes I would< I would take the fight right to these bastards.


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          • WhipRoutine

            I understand that the idea of highly toxic man-made radioactive materials being dispersed in the environment is new to many. You can't see them. I'm surprised we know about the accident in Carlsbad. Around here, there are so many places historically and currently poofing this stuff into the atmosphere.

            Unfortunately, if one is aware of these sources of daily contamination…DAILY! You have to come to terms with living in a contaminated environment. Try. Try and fight this monster. You'll see. They WIPP you into submission.

            There are many more besides WIPP. Closer to home than you think. It's easy to point the finger at Fukushima, WIPP, Rocky Flats etc. In many ways we are all responsible.


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            • We Not They Finally

              WhipRoutine, first, welcome to the website! Your input is needed.

              My husband and I live in Albuquerque. We check the beta readings through the EPA radnet regularly, and the readings are honestly CRAZY. (They live the readings for Carlsbad BLANK.) It spiked all the way up to 1,000 CPM just after Christmas. And several hundred CPM is frequent. It rarely spikes DOWN to as low as 100 CPM.

              Before Carlsbad, we thought maybe that was Fukushima related. Although Albuquerque was still higher than MOST cities the EPA prints radnets for. So we thought, o.k., add in Los Alamos.

              Now with Carlsbad, since plutonium is apparently alpha, not beta radiation, we wouldn't even know. We've just both (both my husband and me) had some strange sudden physical symptoms since the Carlsbad catastrophe. (They're not calling it that — at least not yet — we know.) Nothing life threatening, just so strange to hit us BOTH that we said together at once, "This must be radiation!"

              Please keep posting. Sharing info is always good. And check out the community meeting they had in Carlsbad this past week. We saw a partial transcript and there was not ONE single question that got a straight answer.


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              • WhipRoutine

                Hi, Thank You. I'm not sure about the numbers of the readings…I'll need to educate myself.

                What I have observed is that on a regular basis different types of explosive devices are constantly going off near Santa Fe. I have heard there is testing ranges associated with the Labs. Well, when it has been reported that there are these depleted Uranium type munitions being used in war and that Plutonium trigger Production is happening…maybe they test components associated with this? I know you guys will laugh, but depending on the direction and intensity of wind I try not to breathe too deeply after that.

                I know you can find testimony about downwinders from the bombing range in Socorro. They have documented evidence about the spread of radioactive materials from there to Socorro. This would be the depleted Uranium weapons as well. Perhaps when the wind blows right, those numbers go up in ABQ.

                Sad. We have to consider these things on a daily basis. Perhaps discussing what we know will help others who are just focused on the dramatic events.


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            • Shaker1

              Welcome, WhipRoutine. Hell of a way to ruin the beauty of NM, huh?

              Could you, if you feel comfortable doing so, describe the 'containers' that you've seen? It's just that there are so many references to such word 'container' with little actual characterization to what those might actually be, that it tries the imagination. I've seen proposals and illustrations of many such 'containers', all without a dimensional component. Are what you see round? Are they box-shaped? Or are you speaking of something on the order of a standard cargo container that might be packed with anything, and you don't actually see the packaging that might be used to 'contain' the radioactive material?

              Here's a link to a PDF, published recently, it seems, but with information that is a few years old examines plutonium inventory and sites where it exists.

              http://fissilematerials.org/library/doe12.pdf.

              Good to see you here.


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              • WhipRoutine

                Yes, the containers I'm talking about that I have seen on these trucks are the round steel WIPP shipping containers. They have a unique black serial # on each one. They line them up 2 or 3 on a flatbed type trailer. These are the standard ones. They fill them up with whatever they do. So,I have not seen their contents. I imagine the stock photos of what you see underground in Carlsbad is what has been passing through here. Sometimes, they come in a caravan. Sometimes they have security cars on either side…ahead and behind. Sometimes State Police escort them. I know from other comments here that the containers they are talking about being breached in WIPP are another type. So, the smoke I saw coming out of the transport-shipping container could have come from an internally packed container of another type.


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                • Shaker1

                  Thank you, WhipRoutine. That satisfies the question, and I'll look through published pictures of WIPP. I would imagine coming from the north that these would be and have been coming from Idaho (INL), Rocky Flats, or even Hanford. I wouldn't think they'd take stuff from Savannah River or Pantex in Texas on such route. All might contain plutonium and an array of other nuclear contaminants.


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    • Radnet readings for the area are typically very high


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    • Sky-Valley Sky-Valley

      @WhipRoutine – If I may recommend – there is a WIPP discussion group at the SimplyInfo website – http://www.fukuleaks.org/web/ – click on the "New Live Chat" link and set up an account (easily) – and click on the WIPP tab. I'm sure they would appreciate your input and may be able to provide you with some answers . . .


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    • mrutopian mrutopian

      As a truckdriver, when you said under a bridge, that is one of the things we look out for. Many trucks won't fit under low bridges. It may have hit the bridge?


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  • humptydumpty humptydumpty

    DOE's wildly optimistic estimate of the odds of a serious accident happening, where deadly poisonous Plutonium & Americium craps out, was purely hypothetical, wishful thinking or willful ignorance. These analists (pun intended) are so full of crap they can't think straight.

    "…before WIPP opened, the [DOE] put the risk of such an accident at one chance in 10,000 to one in 1 million during any given year of WIPP operations."


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  • obewanspeaks obewanspeaks

    They lied and they have always lied…it is what it is.. just a bunch of lies compounding on the top of previous lies.. :(


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  • Arnie has 4 concerns..

    1. How serious was this? How widespread?

    2. Were workers decontaminated, or did they take it home with them? All homes, cars, clothing, etc need to be tested. Did they stop on the way? All of those places need to be tested.

    3. What if this had happened during day instead of at night? They lucked out..

    4. Water entering WIPP is a huge risk. Did water enter WIPP and cause roof collapse?


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    • humptydumpty humptydumpty

      Then there's the question of how they will even be able to deal with the mess inside the facility.

      If I were an investor, I would put my money into robot builders. Looks like there's a growing need for these devices to "go where no man has gone before" — down into the deadliest snake pits one can imagine.


      Report comment

    • Angela_R

      Dr. Goodheart,

      I kept wondering about water; then Razzz referred to the liquid in the drums. Of course! they've got polluted water in them, haven't they?
      Wasn't there a statememt that something had fallen on the drums?

      Chemistry anyone? I won't even start


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      • Drums and containers are not supposed to have more than 1% liquid in them. But they accept screaming hot sludge waste, mixed waste, chemicals, VOC's, basically anything at all..

        So who opened those barrels to check and make sure it was no more than 1% liquid inside?

        Who checked to make sure no cesium was in there?

        In Germany, basically EVERYTHING ended up down there, illegally.

        Same thing here.. no different.


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  • waiono

    my my my said the spider to the fly….

    "Franco also confirmed a rumor that WIPP employees had shifted the filtration during the fire.

    "The fact that we just found out that a rumor was actually true is the exact reason why we are all here," Pearce said to some applause."
    =======
    " The DOE had just begun site investigations into the cause of the fire when the Feb. 14 radiation leak was detected, according to Franco."

    http://www.currentargus.com/carlsbad-news/ci_25302729/congressman-pearce-hosts-wipp-forum


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  • atomicistheword

    It is interesting to see a forum so popular being closer to home for many. It seems this event may awaken. I fear though that a greater event may occur, ending insanity might give us the space to develop technologies to clean up the mess.

    NO MORE MAN MADE ATOMIC RADIATION MADNESS!


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  • James Tekton James Tekton

    "I fear though that a greater event may occur,"

    As this was being read, we are listening to this John Moore show. Read your statement at the same time this cat calls in at 4:35:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQPygS1tMss&list=UU6jd17ETC0-0pq1BJQp3XXg

    And then earlier, this article came across the deck.

    http://www.blacklistednews.com/Ukraine%27s_Military_Mobilizes%2C_Prepares_For_Combat%3A_Trucks%2C_APCs%2C_SAMs%2C_Tanks_Rolling_Out/33493/0/38/38/Y/M.html

    Greater Events? What may come to pass is anyone's guess, and maybe some peoples plans. If the war deal in the Ukraine gets going, WIPP news will quickly go the wayside as the lame stream media covers it up with outrageous blaring war news that is sure to distract more than the average football crowd. The measurements of how bad this really is may never be known unless a private citizen goes down there to make a u-tube video just to gauge a few spots in the real near future. Might be chancy going to any areas downwind though.

    More important, if what the caller on John Mooor show is correct and something does slam the planet, all the WIPP and maybe everything else just might become a moot point in a few short minutes time.

    Still, in the face of so much potential chaotic calamity energy beginning to manifest, we are getting ready to plant the garden and some more flowers. ALL can do is enjoy our conscious life in the best quality we can create for ourselves…one day at a time.


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    • James Tekton James Tekton

      Darn.

      ALL we ALL can do is enjoy our conscious life in the best quality we can create for ourselves…one day at a time.

      .


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    • We Not They Finally

      Yeah, "the war deal in the Ukraine" blows us out of the park. They really give a flying f___ [excuse] about the Ukraine? (Like if you really care, go help the kids deformed from Chernobyl.) But they just can't bring themselves to address our own population being nuked?

      But no one should risk going down to Carlsbad to check. Yeah, we'd like to see citizen journalists — it's just too risky. With Fukushima, at least we've been "given clues" (though they are horrifying clues, to be sure!) Carlsbad, no. We really don't yet know, but it looks highly dangerous.


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  • They do NOT HAVE A CLUE as to what happened.

    Obviously, the experts cannot enter or even have a robot enter the site or we would know something.

    IMO – This is an unqualified GUESS.
    "… only two scenarios here are plausible based on what we currently know – the burst drum or roof fall."

    Here are my guesses ;)

    1. Maybe an inside terrorist (maybe a nun) intended to do harm and shut down this site?

    2. Maybe a rat ate through a seal.

    Again… They do NOT HAVE A CLUE!

    The experts are in the delay and denial mode.
    Most likely praying with both hands and with their fingers crossed.


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  • Uranium_Mountain Uranium_Mountain

    This is really comforting also: PLUTONIUM MIGRATION HAS SIGNIFICANT IMPLICATIONS FOR WASTE ISOLATION AT YUCCA MOUNTAIN

    http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/yucca/plut01.htm


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    • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar VanneV

      TY, Uranium_mt. It just shows that they have already known for decades that that storing nuclear waste is a disaster.


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      • earthsmith earthsmith

        70,000 metric tons! and still no clue. Whew if that doesn't put the future of this psychopathic industry in perspective only the extinction of life will. These people(DOE) are paid guesser's at best that must of been raised strictly on processed and fast food alone because their brains OBVIOUSLY don't function.


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    • nedlifromvermont

      uranium mountain: your link goes to a message "website unavailable"

      the rats are shutting down the truth portals.

      General Electric is implicated, again.

      and the other "usual suspects" US DOE, Westinghouse, etc.


      Report comment

  • rogerthat

    Where there's smoke there's fire
    But where there's black smoke from nuclear waste then experts are flummoxed, mystified, have no idea what's happening, have to investigate — one day in the far distant future, when it's safe — and it will take years for a report to be drawn up, and then it won't be made available, and by then the kardashians will be cute old grannies and who will care, we will all have moved on to bigger and better, or badder, things.


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  • Angela_R

    The video in the following link is short, however it takes you below, underneath into the WIPP Nuclear Waste Storage Facility.
    See Room 7 where the accident occurred. It was filmed before the fire and subsequent leak.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-26441154

    The article also gives an explanation of what is believed to have happened.


    Report comment

  • WIPP Says the leak is plugged.

    Residents want to know what caused the leak. WIPP said it has been plugged, and it will not affect tourist attraction Carlsbad Caverns."
    http://kunm.org/post/big-picture-wipp-leak

    Really?

    There are a number of shafts going down into WIPP..

    They plugged them all up?

    No air going in, no air going out? No elevators going down, none coming up?

    What did they 'seal' it with? Duct tape?

    Or is this just another lie and smoke screen PR statement?


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  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    Somewhere..someone mentioned.. Robert B. Hayes..
    Please confirm..it's this guy standing next to 'Goofy".

    Robert Hayes

    Principal Engineer, PhD, PE, CHP
    Hobbs, New Mexico (Odessa/Midland, Texas Area) Environmental Services

    http://www.linkedin.com/pub/robert-hayes/67/b27/534


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  • Nick

    I bet WIPP has been wafting nasty shit since the start.

    DOE is a female deer.

    Ray a drop of Hanford Sun

    Me a name I call myself……


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  • Uranium_Mountain Uranium_Mountain

    A good Plutonium Video. Pay particular attention to the 12:20 mark on long term storage and the gases this metal produces. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89UNPdNtOoE


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  • We Not They Finally

    Spontaeous combustion is when the internal mechanism of the life force within all of us goes bad. THe nadis there are Ida and Pingala control heat and cooling of the dormant Kundalin life force which flows up and down the Sushumna or centrat canal of human beingsIf one nadi takes over control.over theother what happen is either the moon force freeezes the body the sun force causes the phenomena of what esotiric people have calle down through the ages spontaneous combustion where the body becomes o hot it bursts into flame. The intersting thing is that this is non physical as the clothes of the human are not effrected and remain unburnt next to the ashes of the person.. That is spontaneus combustion.


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  • We Not They Finally

    Ive been over my life studying with various kundalini masters the I evolutionary movement of the life force called the kundalini awakening and moving upward through what we call chakras.what happens when there is an unequal growth can be a disaster…Thats why various advanced breathing is limited to the few.basically if things go very wrong there is an imbalance between The ida nadi which is very cooling and the pingala which can be like the Sun..Gopi krishna use to write about this.If the pingala goes without being balanced then we can see the phenomena of spontaneous combustion occur very rarely in humans.


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