WIPP officials plan reopening, cleanup

CARLSBAD N.M. (KRQE) – There’s national attention this afternoon on the Federal Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

A radioactive leak has contaminated at least 13 workers and now there’s a plan to find out what went wrong.

The incident began about two weeks ago when sensors picked up elevated radiation levels at the WIPP facility, 26-miles east of Carlsbad.

That plant stores low-level nuclear waste. The Department Of Energy says levels of radiation that leaked from underground at WIPP are relatively small– about a quarter of what you’d get from a chest X-Ray.

But employee testing identified 13 above ground workers who were contaminated.

Many more workers are currently being tested.

The health risks of that exposure are unknown.

Right now the radiation around WIPP is closer to normal and KRQE New 13 is told 182 workers are still on the job.

It’s unclear what caused the radiation leak, possibly a roof or ceiling collapse.

The plan right now is to send in probes and then people below ground to determine exactly where the leak is and where the air itself is safe to breathe.

WIPP Project Manager Farok Sharif said officials have a lot to get done but they will not rush the process.

WIPP has been sorting nuclear waste for nearly 15 years and this is the first problem like this the project has had.

WIPP Officials emphasize the City of Carlsbad itself is not at risk from the leak.

Thursday Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrick did ask the EPA to provide public health analysis and deploy mobile environmental monitoring units to the area.


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