Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, published Apr. 9, 2014 (at 3:00 in):
- Sen. Tom Udall, New Mexico: I appreciate that many in your agency have made it clear that the radioactive releases from WIPP have been at levels that are a public health danger and I’m hopeful that you’re monitoring and verification will continue to support their unfortunately the facts are the two accidents have happened to WIPP that we’re not supposed to happen — a fire in a mine and a radiological release. DOE oversight has already been found to be lacking and that’s why it’s important to the community that an independent public health agency like EPA be on the ground overseeing the recovery phase to ensure public health is protected. […]
- Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator: EPA’s main job in this is to ensure that we’re looking at any level that could have been exceeded in terms of protectiveness to the outside, so that the surrounding communities are aware of any concerns […] So far, it looks like any release has been far below any levels that are necessary for protection […] We know people have concerns, this is a big deal.
– Expert: No one in world has ever dealt with something like WIPP disaster — Continuous release of radioactive material ’24/7′ to environment — Nobody knows when leaking will end — It’s a ‘major failure’ for so many people to be exposed — Gov’t yet to say if dump will open again (AUDIO) (ENENNews, April 5, 2014):
AP, Apr 4, 2014: Workers are prepared to encounter contamination [&] will try to figure out what caused [WIPP’s] mysterious leak [of radiation that] contaminated 21 workers […] [No one’s been] underground […] to find the source of the leak and determine if [the fire & radiation] are related.
Nuclear Hotseat #145, with host Libbe HaLevy, M.A., Apr. 1, 2014:
- 5:15 in — Don Hancock, director of the Nuclear Waste Safety program and administrator at Southwest Research and Information Center: Data from what’s being captured […] and what comes out of the filters, is that there have been continuing releases 24/7 […] There still is contamination coming out of the underground […] Numbers move around, but there’s always some amount of radioactivity in the underground air and lesser amounts being vented to the environment. Why it happened, why it was released, how much was really released, how much contamination there is in the underground, how long the releases continue, whether there could be further releases given that we don’t know what the situation is […] All of those of things are unknowns.
– US Nuclear Waste Dirty-Bombs New Mexico With Plutonium (Reader Supported News, March 30, 2014):
Radiation from a half-mile underground reaches atmosphere.
It was Valentine’s Day when the nation’s only radioactive nuclear waste facility first released radioactive particles including Plutonium and Americium into the atmosphere of New Mexico and beyond, including into Texas, Oklahoma, and Mexico. Earlier that same day, the New Mexico Environment Department opened the public comment period on an application to modify and expand that nuclear waste facility, which the department said it planned to allow.
– Radiation Expert: 5 types of plutonium were released from WIPP; Officials not informing public — Caldicott: “I predict that facility will never be able to be used again”; Inhaling a millionth of a gram of plutonium will induce lung cancer (AUDIO) (ENENews, March 25, 2014):
KUNM, Mar. 24, 2014: The director of an organization that evaluated the WIPP site for over 25 years said officials aren’t doing enough to inform New Mexicans. […] “I just can’t stress the importance of DOE being available to respond to detailed questions that people have,” [Dr. Bob Neill] said. “There’s no substitute for direct communication.” Immediately after the leak was discovered, the public should have been given a detailed explanation of what was released, said Dr. Neill, who received his degree in radiological medicine. Americium 241 and plutonium 239 were mentioned. “But there are four other radio-isotopes of plutonium, namely the 238, 240, the beta and 241,” he said. “They’re all bone-seekers. So you want to be able to report all the values—how each one may have contributed. It’s just essential.” […] “It’s so important to answer people’s questions—and not just people in Carlsbad, but throughout the state and elsewhere,” he said. As for the leak itself, he said all of the possible causes of the failure at WIPP must be considered, and a response system should be designed accordingly.
Interview with Dr. Helen Caldicott, March 2014 (at 37:30 in): One of the repositories for very, very dangerous radioactive waste plutonium, americium, etc. has just leaked radiation all around the area in Carlsbad, New Mexico. One microgram of plutonium, a millionth of a gram of plutonium, if inhaled will induce lung cancer. It’s extraordinarily radioactive. So they thought this would be safe storing radiation in salt mines, but something happened, one of the casks blew up or part of the ceiling fell on the casks, we do not know. But I predict that that facility will never be able to be used again, it will be so contaminated.
– Radiation leaks force transfer of nuclear waste from New Mexico to Texas (RT, March 21, 2014):
The cause of the radiation leaks at the United States’ first nuclear waste repository are still under investigation, but in the meantime government officials have decided to move a stalled shipment of waste to a private dump in Texas.
According to Reuters, the shipment of approximately 1,000 barrels of radioactive leftovers to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, was put on hold when the facility began leaking radioactive material in February. On Thursday, the Department of Energy announced it would temporarily relocate those barrels to a rural site in western Texas.
– WIPP officials admit new release of Plutonium and Americium — More expected in future — Nearly double levels seen after February leak — 61 DPM on March 11 vs. 36 DPM in February (ENENews, March 19, 2014):
AP, Mar. 19, 2014: New air sampling data from southeastern New Mexico’s troubled nuclear waste dump indicates there has been another small radiation release. […] they believe the contamination is from previous deposits on the inner surface of exhaust ductwork. […] Officials say occasional low-level releases are anticipated, but they should be well within safe limits.
Las Cruces Sun, Mar. 18, 2014 (emphasis added): DOE: Another radiation release reported at WIPP […] Samples collected from the ventilation exhaust recorded 61 disintegrations per minute of americium. DPM measures the amount of radioactive contamination from alpha and beta rays in an area. […] The DOE believes the most recent contamination was residual radioactive particles that were trapped in the ventilation system from the initial radiation leak. […] The DOE said it anticipates additional low-level releases on occasion, but officials expect radiation in the environment will remain at safe levels. New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn said the state was briefed of the news Tuesday morning and thinks there is nothing to worry about at this time. “The level they detected is low and we don’t believe there was any risk to public health or the environment but we need to investigate more,” he said. […] Department of Energy officials were not available for comment.
– Official: Radioactive material escaping everyday from WIPP and dispersing — Top officials “not made available for comment” — Expert: Leaks from ‘unfiltered’ ducts went on for weeks (ENENews, March 20, 2014):
Carlsbad Current Argus, Mar. 19, 2014: [Last week’s radiation release] incident is believed to have been caused from a buildup of radioactive particles that eventually escaped the duct much like smoke from a chimney, and officials anticipate more residual releases until the original source of last month’s radiation leak can be fixed. “Small amounts (of radioactive particles) are escaping everyday and we’re going to see those spikes every once in a while,” said Donavan Mager, spokesman for the Nuclear Waste Partnership. “It’s so small that it’s going to disperse quickly. Everything is working the way we expect it to and as it was designed, otherwise you wouldn’t see any (particles escaping) if the leak was contained.” […] WIPP officials said Wednesday they plan to test the mine’s HEPA filters to ensure they’re working as expected. […] DOE and NWP officials will provide another public update at the weekly Carlsbad town hall meeting on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the city council chambers on 101 N. Halagueno Street. DOE Carlsbad Field Office Manager Jose Franco and newly-appointed NWP president Bob McQuinn were not made available for comment on the situation.
– TV: Over 30 times more radiation got by WIPP filters than gov’t claims? Radiation also released from ‘unfiltered’ vents — Foam used to plug openings is degrading — Filters too radioactive for lab techs to check — No ‘immediate’ danger to public — Rumors of dump getting shut down (VIDEO) (ENENews, March 13, 2014):
KRQE, Mar. 11, 2014: Department of Energy says there is no basis to some of the rumors floating around the area here that WIPP might get shut down.
– “Truly an operational nightmare” at WIPP — Radiation level doubles at location far from leak; Carlsbad monitor jumps around 40% — Residents plead for more info, concerns over safety (MAP) (ENENews, March 9, 2014):
KRQE, Mar. 6, 2014: Many left Thursday night’s meeting with the Department of Energy uneasy. They pleaded for more information about the underground radiation leak last month that seeped outside, but many remain frustrated and concerned for their safety. The DOE tried to reassure people they are safe even though the underground storage areas remained sealed off.
U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce, Mar. 8, 2014: I Will Ask Tough Questions About Radiation Leak — “I will hold their feet to the fire. In my meetings with Secretary Moniz, and in my conversations with top officials at the Department of Energy, I have strongly voiced New Mexicans’ concerns about the lack of information about WIPP.”
– US Gov’t: Never faced challenge like this, but “not giving up hope” at WIPP; Salt from contaminated mine to be sold as feed to dairy farms — TV: “Residents flat out concerned for their safety”; “I want to believe them… but I don’t” — Reuters: ‘Falling slabs’ may have breached waste drums (VIDEO) (ENENews, March 7, 2014):
Reuters, Mar. 5: The leak may have been caused by falling slabs of salt that created a breach of a drum or drums containing waste, officials have said.
Joe Franco, US DOE, Mar. 5: “We have not faced this kind of challenge in our 15-year history”
KRQE, Mar. 5: Damage control is in full swing.
Located near Carlsbad, New Mexico this Department of Energy (DOE) experimental nuclear waste dump is attempting to store leftover radioactive plutonium and americium from the US weapons program. On February 14, 2014 there was a nuclear safety failure at the site and the Department of Energy is not being honest about it. In this film Fairewinds Energy Education’s Arnie Gundersen pieces together what happened and points out Fairewinds’ major concerns about the facility, the accident and the lack of transparency at the DOE.
– ‘Imminent Situation’ At U.S. Nuclear Site – Emergency Operations Center Evacuated Due To Fire Deep Underground – ‘One Of Most Serious Incidents’ On Record – Anonymous Footage Of Thick Black Smoke Coming From Ground
– “WIPP release story doesn’t add up… accident is unbelievable” — New tests show “high level” release underground — “Contains things far more radioactive than High Level Waste” — “I want to hear what really happened down there” (VIDEO) (ENENews, March 6, 2014):
Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring & Research Center, Mar. 5, 2014 (emphasis added): Station A (pre-HEPA) in the morning following the event (2/15/14) showed high levels of radioactivity consisting of 1,365 Bq/m3 of Americium (241Am) and 672 Bq/m3 of Plutonium (239+240Pu). Twenty-four hours following the event (11:30pm Saturday 2/15/14), another filter sample showed much lower levels of radioactivity, measuring 130 Bq/m3 of 241Am and 17 Bq/m3 of 239+240Pu. […] It is important to note that while very high levels of radioactivity were measured immediately following the 2/14/14 radiation detection event, these values are reflective of what was measured prior to going through the HEPA filtration system […] Station B (post-HEPA) in the afternoon of Tuesday (2/18/14). Analysis of this filter showed a moderate amount of radioactivity measuring 1.81 Bq/m3 of 241Am and 0.224 Bq/m3 of 239+240Pu. […] it is evident that a moderate amount of radioactive isotopes were released into the air from the WIPP exhaust shaft […] CEMRC scientists are preparing to collect soil and surface water samples […]
– WIPP Expert: Nuclear waste is getting out above ground — Plutonium / Americium found in “every single worker” on site when leak began — New Mexico officials ‘totally unsatisfied’ with lack of info from Feds — “We don’t know how far away it’s gone” — Continuing threat for long time to come (AUDIO) (ENENews, March 5, 2014):
Interview with WIPP expert Don Hancock of Southwest Research and Information Center, Nuclear Hotseat with Libbe HaLevy, Feb. 25, 2014 (at 22:30 in):
- Don Hancock, Southwest Research and Information Center: We don’t know how far away [contamination has] gone. That’s one of the questions that needs to be figured out.
- Libbe HaLevy, host: What, if any, signs are there that the leak is ongoing?
- Hancock: They still have amounts of radiation that they’re reading in the underground at WIPP. The DoE is saying that the filter system is 99.97% effective. We don’t know that that’s true because we don’t have laboratory results back, how much radioactivity those filters are actually catching. We are a long way from having all the sampling we need in the above ground to know how much is out. We can presume that minute amounts can still be coming out through the filter system even if the filter system is working perfectly. The filter system doesn’t work 100% perfect — 99.97%, if it is working that well is good, but that means there’s 0.03% that is getting out. So it will be a continuing problem until all of the contamination, both underground and above ground is cleaned up. […] It’s a continuing potential threat to people for a long time to come.
Interview with WIPP expert Don Hancock of Southwest Research and Information Center, Nuclear Hotseat with Libbe HaLevy, Mar. 4, 2014:
- Hancock (at 3:00 in): Apparently every single worker on the site when the alarm was triggered late night on Valentine’s Day Feb. 14 received internal dose […] at least 13 [have] confirmed internal radiation. So that bodes the possibility of some serious health consequences.