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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

More airborne radiation confirmed near New Mexico nuclear site

AFP Photo/Johannes Eisele
AFP Photo/Johannes Eisele
 About one week after a leak resulted in record levels of radiation near the United States’ first nuclear waste depository, more airborne radiation has been detected, according to the Associated Press.

The latest readings were confirmed on Monday by the US Department of Energy, which stated that multiple air tracking stations around the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, are monitoring the situation.

Earlier this month, a sharp rise in radiation levels forced WIPP managers to suspend operations at the plant. As RT noted previously, the WIPP is one of three deep nuclear repositories in the world, storing leftover radioactive material 600 meters underground. The cause of the initial spike was linked to a leak inside one of the underground salt tunnels that holds nuclear waste.

Despite the leak, officials said that no employees were underground when the alarm sounded, and no one’s health had been harmed. They added that radiation levels were still significantly below those outlined by Environmental Protection Agency’s safety standards. Even with the new radiation readings, officials said there was no threat to the public.

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Remember That Nuclear Dump Site That 'Was Never Supposed to Leak'?

Nation's only underground nuclear waste storage site, located in New Mexico, believed to be leaking radiation into air

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer
Waste Isolation Pilot Plant pictured December 2004 (Photo: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)A leak at the only underground nuclear waste dump in the United States is now believed to be releasing radiation into the air, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced Monday, sparking alarm among residents near the southeastern New Mexico site.
"There's been radioactivity from nuclear waste released on the surface into the environment," said Don Hancock, Director of the Nuclear Waste Program at the Southwest Research and Information Center, in an interview with Common Dreams. "This was never supposed to happen. That's a very serious thing. We don't know yet what caused this release, or how much has been released."
Samples taken near the federally-run Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), 25 miles east of the town of Carlsbad, showed "slightly elevated levels of airborne radioactive concentrations, which are consistent with the waste disposed," according to the DOE.
"There is an awful lot more that should be known before we can assess the risk. The DOE has a long history of playing keep-away with the facts and promoting nuclear power."
—Arnie Gundersen, nuclear expert
WIPP holds plutonium-contaminated military waste, generated by nuclear weapons production across the United States, including Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico. The waste is stored deep beneath the earth's surface in salt formations.
New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynnstated last week, “Events like this simply should never occur. From the state’s perspective, one event is far too many.”
Residents have long complained that WIPP, as well as nuclear waste transport across the state, put local communities at risk, including the Native American reservations, school districts, and highways the waste passes through en route to the repository. Tewa Women United, an indigenous organization based in northern New Mexico, slams the "negative impacts that pollution and nuclear contamination have on our bodies, minds, spirits, lands, air and water" in a statement on their website.
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