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Most likely a ‘worst-case scenario’ at WIPP — NPR: ‘Huge chunk’ of salt believed to have crushed drums of radioactive waste — ABC: “Investigators now admit problem is serious” — NYT: Plutonium, americium can bombard organs “for rest of person’s lifetime” (VIDEO)

Published: February 28th, 2014 at 6:14 pm ET
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ABC, Feb 28, 2014: New concerns now about a story we brought you yesterday [...] Investigators now admit that the problem is serious […] a container of radioactive waste leaked underground at the WIPP [...] they admit it’s too soon to tell how dangerous it could be for those exposed. […]

NPR, Feb. 28, 2014 (emphasis added): CAPTION: A piece of salt is believed to have fallen from a cavern ceiling and crushed drums of waste [...] the most likely scenario is that a huge chunk of salt fell from the ceiling and ruptured a drum or multiple drums of waste.

AP, Feb. 28, 2014: Government officials, politicians, the contractors [...] emphasize that all the safety systems designed to react to worst-case scenarios like a ceiling collapse worked.

NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel, Feb. 28, 2014: [...] Nobody knows exactly what happened. That’s one of the strange things about this [...] the speculation I’ve been hearing is that a chunk of salt, probably, fell off the ceiling and struck a drum or drums and ruptured it. [...] Oh, I think it’s very unlikely there is risk to the public. [...] they are following these workers quite closely to see how this radioactivity clears their system [...] clearly something’s gone wrong. Unfortunately, nobody can go underground to find out what’s happened.

New York Times, Feb. 28, 2014: The workers inhaled plutonium and americium, which if lodged in the body bombards internal organs with subatomic particles for the rest of the person’s lifetime.

Wall St. Journal, Feb. 28, 2014: Plutonium and americium particles can lodge into bones or muscle tissue, affecting cellular structures and DNA, experts say. “When it gets into your body it can do a lot of damage,” said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C. “Even very small amounts are a potential concern.” [...] “Absolutely people are concerned,” said Tony Hernandez, a commissioner in Eddy County [...]

Al Jazeera America, Feb. 28, 2014: Arnie Gundersen [...] said the DOE’s tight lips might be a sign that the leak is bigger than originally thought. “There are signs they’re playing keep-away with data,” he said. “We need to know what they measured for. They’re only giving us half the numbers” Gundersen said officials are likely conducting a slew of tests that they are not disclosing to the public. He said the fact that radiation is being detected 3,000 feet away from the site suggests the leak is large.

CEMRC Ambient Air Sampling Results (pdf), Feb. 27, 2014: 11.8 Miles SE of WIPP Exhaust Shaft — Am241 *Sample Being Reanalyzed

Watch the ABC News broadcast here

Published: February 28th, 2014 at 6:14 pm ET
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166 comments

166 comments to Most likely a ‘worst-case scenario’ at WIPP — NPR: ‘Huge chunk’ of salt believed to have crushed drums of radioactive waste — ABC: “Investigators now admit problem is serious” — NYT: Plutonium, americium can bombard organs “for rest of person’s lifetime” (VIDEO)

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