Expert: ‘Cracked’ nuclear container “blew top off” at WIPP — Hundreds more drums at dump risk ‘energetic reaction’ and radiation release — Insider: Get forklift and remove them before another accident — Official: No ‘imminent’ public threat ‘at this time’ (VIDEO)

Published: May 19th, 2014 at 1:56 pm ET
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Dept. of Energy, May 16, 2014: Visual evidence that shows a damaged waste container [...] “In the new pictures, the [ Los Alamos National Laboratory] container has a cracked lid and shows evidence of heat damage. Workers will continue investigating [...] if any other containers were involved or damaged,” said a DOE spokesperson.

LANL director Charles McMillan message to lab personnel, May 16, 2014: “similar waste drums here at the Lab and those sent to Waste Control Specialists in Texas are in a safe and controlled configuration [...] we do not believe there is any imminent threat to the safety of our employees, the public, or the environment at this time. [...] While many details remain unknown, additional investigative work is being planned to pinpoint the cause of the breached drum, the radiological release, and whether other containers were involved”

Reuters, May 16, 2014: An official with the New Mexico city near [WIPP] urged managers of the facility to remove improperly packaged drums of toxic debris to prevent another accident like a leak in February that released high levels of radiation. John Heaton [...] pressed officials [...] to remove potentially hazardous drums of refuse stored there. “Are we going to play footsie for another three months?” Heaton asked [...] “How much longer before you make a decision to go get a forklift and go get those drums?” [...] More containers of improperly packaged waste from Los Alamos pose potential hazards that should be addressed, Heaton said.

Southwest Research and Information Center, May 8, 2014 (emphasis added): On May 1, an internal DOE report stated that an “energetic chemical reaction” might have caused the radiation release. Although that report did not identify either the site or the waste stream, the suspected containers were from LANL, which DOE did confirm on May 2. Further shipments of that waste stream from LANL to [Waste Control Specialists in Texas] were halted. [...] From that waste stream, there are 116 containers at WCS. From that waste stream, there are 54 containers in room 7, Panel 7 and 238 containers in Panel 6.

KOB, May 13, 2014: Dr. Jim Conca [...] who monitored WIPP for years, said [...] “Until we actually get that drum, the one that blew the top off, we really won’t know exactly what happened [...] WIPP performed brilliantly; it performed exactly as it was supposed to [...] It doesn’t matter that the drums are intact after the room is closed. The drums are assumed to corrode and break and everything else … That’s what it’s supposed to do,” he said.

KRQE, May 12, 2014: No one knows at this time when WIPP will be safe to reopen.

Watch video footage of the breached containers

Published: May 19th, 2014 at 1:56 pm ET
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  1. 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
  2. AP: Ticking time bombs of nuclear waste at multiple U.S. sites? Lab checking for smoking drums — CNN: “Imminent threat from radiation” — Gundersen: Serious public health effects if one blows; “Very, very volatile… like nitroglycerin” (VIDEO) May 23, 2014
  3. Officials now admit over 500 barrels of nuclear waste at risk of bursting open — AP: 368 already at WIPP dump — “New Mexico sees ‘imminent’ danger” — State orders WIPP to prevent “health or environmental threat”; Must ‘permanently seal’ underground storage areas May 21, 2014
  4. Video: WIPP nuclear site may close for several years — Explosion in multiple drums suspected — “Very much a cause for concern” — Top official gives ‘fiery speech’ calling for public to be told what has happened — DOE refuses to name source of nuclear waste May 9, 2014
  5. 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

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