Plutonium release at U.S. nuclear facility: “We don’t know what happened… don’t know whether it could happen again” — “Big problem is…how much is continuing to be released?” — Officials “know very little about extent of problem or how to solve it”

Published: February 20th, 2014 at 3:07 pm ET
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KUNM (NPR affiliate), Feb. 20, 2014: Highest Ever Radiation Levels Detected In Air Above Nuclear Waste Facility [...] Russell Hardy, director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, said Wednesday a monitor near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico has detected trace amounts of the radioactive isotopes americium and plutonium. He says the levels are the highest ever detected at or around the site [...]

Albuquerque Journal, Feb. 20, 2014: [...] “It’s still below what EPA considers actionable levels, but it’s important to know that some material did get out of the facility,” Hardy said. [...] Plutonium and americium are cancer-causing when inhaled or consumed, Hardy said. [...] WIPP said Wednesday that it is developing a plan to safely re-enter the underground facility. Radiological professionals from other Energy Department locations and national laboratories are also assisting in the recovery, WIPP said. [...] Hardy said CEMRC is in the process of testing 10 additional filters from an exhaust shaft at WIPP.

RT, Feb. 20, 2014: Spokeswoman Deb Gill said [...] officials know very little about the extent of the problem or how to solve it.

John Heaton, chairman of the Carlsbad Nuclear Task Force: “Even though it’s very discouraging that there was a release, it’s strictly speculation about what caused that. You have to realize that all the containers are closed and sealed (underground in WIPP). Until they are able to go back down and examine the waste, we could find out it’s something even different than we think.”

Don Hancock, director of the Nuclear Waste Safety Program at the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque: “There is a lot more that needs to be known [...] The big problem is, does anybody really know what happened in the underground and how much was released or is continuing to be released? And therefore how much is being captured by the filters and how much is getting into the environment?”

Russell Hardy, director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center: “We don’t know what happened inside that might have caused a release. We don’t know why it happened and we don’t know whether it could happen again.”

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

Published: February 20th, 2014 at 3:07 pm ET
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