Officials: WIPP air shafts, no contamination

CARLSBAD, NM (KRQE) – Plans to find out what caused a radiation leak at a New Mexico nuclear waste repository are moving forward.

Officials at the WIPP facility near Carlsbad announced Sunday probes found no signs of radioactive contamination in underground air shafts.

If confirmed that clears the way for humans to go back underground to investigate the source of a radiation leak.

In a joint statement released Sunday, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC said:

Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the management and operations contractor at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), has initiated the first phase of an underground recovery process that will lead to the resumption of nuclear waste disposal operations at WIPP.

Over the weekend (March 7 and 8), radiological and air quality instruments were lowered down the Salt Handling and the Air Intake Shafts, to check for airborne radioactivity and to determine air quality. The preliminary findings indicate no detectable radioactive contamination in the air or on the equipment lowered and returned to the surface. Air quality results were also normal. These results were expected because the shafts that were sampled were not in the air flow path coming from the area where the radiation release originated.

Tests did find another four WIPP workers were contaminated by radiation at last month’s incident, bringing the total to seventeen.

WIPP officials say they likely won’t face any negative health effects from the exposure.

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