i don’t want to sound alarmist, but because the authorities are dragging their feet, people affected by the leaking radioactive particles from the WIPP nuclear waste storage facility may not be able to be evacuated – they are radioactive biohazards by now. this shit accumulates in our bodies and never goes away. we’ll see if the robot they send in can approach the stuff, but i doubt it will be able to operate very close to the material that’s leaking.
facility meant for longterm storage of nuclear waste caught fire and leaked hot particle radioactive materials in february, injuring at least 13 workers. workers returned to search for the causem but had to evacuate.
Albuquerque Journal, Mar. 8, 2014: WIPP radiation leak was never supposed to happen — No one knows yet how or why a waste drum leaked [...] setting off a cascade of events that could cripple the nation’s radioactive waste disposal system. [...] before WIPP opened, the [DOE] put the risk of such an accident at one chance in 10,000 to one in 1 million during any given year of WIPP operations [...] only two possible scenarios [...] an exploding waste drum or a waste disposal room roof collapse. [...] “You could have crapped up a whole lot of real estate down there,” [Bob Neill, a radiation safety expert] said. The underground drum fire scenario [...] hypothesized the “spontaneous combustion” of a drum’s contents, rupturing and spreading the radioactive waste inside [a] one chance in 10,000 in any given year of WIPP operations. The “roof fall” scenario [...] was calculated at one chance in a million during a given year [and] could leave a large number of waste drums crushed and leaking. [...] Cleaning up contamination [would] risk of further spreading the contamination. [...] In a formal legal notice, the New Mexico Environment Department said, “It is believed … that the WIPP will be unable to resume normal activities for a protracted period of time.”
Department of Energy, WIPP Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (pdf): WIPP Disposal Accidents– Eight potential accidents at WIPP during disposal operations were evaluated; they are shown in Table 5-18. [...] Potential radiological consequences to the public and maximally exposed noninvolved worker are substantially higher than hazardous chemical consequences, which are very small for most accident cases. Estimated results for members of the public, the maximally exposed noninvolved worker, and the maximally exposed involved worker are presented below and in Table 5-19. Public Population consequences from WIPP disposal accidents were estimated for the 22.5 degree sector west of the site, which includes the City of Carlsbad. The population in this sector is 25,629 and would be affected greater than any other section in the surrounding 80-kilometer (50-mile) region.
AP: Crews retreat after nuclear material found at WIPP — Officials: Correct to turn back, contamination was increasing — Robots brought to site for radiation levels too high for humans — ‘Significant amount of information’ will be revealed to public in next few days
AP, Apr. 17, 2014: Crews on their fourth trip into the mine on Wednesday made it into the only active waste storage area and found contamination, [Tammy Reynolds, U.S. Dept. of Energy’s deputy recovery manager] said. The deeper they went into the area, the more widespread the contamination, she said. But the crews had to retreat before identifying the possible source because they had been underground for five hours in protective gear that retains heat and the batteries on their respiratory equipment were running low. [...] The next step is for crews, and possibly robots, to go back down to see if they can identify what caused the leak.
Tammy Reynolds, deputy WIPP recovery manager: “The more they went into panel seven, the more (the contamination) became more widespread [...] They made the correct decision to turn back [...] Everyone was safely returned to the surface.”
John Heaton, former state representative and chairman of the Carlsbad Mayor’s Nuclear Taskforce, WIPP Town Hall, Apr. 17, 2014 (at 7:00 in): I think that next week might a very busy week in that I think that there will be progress to report in terms as to what might have been the cause and also Phase 1 of the accident investigation report. […] I believe — I hate to speculate on this — but there will be a significant amount of information that will come out next week. So I think it will be a very important meeting and I think we need to have adequate time for people to be able to ask questions.
Reynolds, WIPP Town Hall, Apr. 17, 2014 (at 23:00 in): One of the other things we’ve been working on is the contingency plan […] They’ve been working to have robots prepared that in the event that the conditions in the underground don’t allow us to be able to get to the waste space or other parts of the mine later on in recovery activities because of the level of contamination, as a contingency we’re looking at the use of robots. And so there’s a couple of robot operators, they’ve already been to the WIPP site, today they brought the robots out to the site and they did a demonstration for us […] so that if we can’t go and visibly put our eyes on certain pieces of the mine, the robot can do that for us and feed us back that information.
WIPP released plutonium and americium, which are long-lived alpha emitters, which can stay in the body for a lifetime. They thus bioaccumulate upon inhalation and ingestion, and even absorption. That is the hidden, dirty, secret. [...] The BEIR VII report is well-known for its Linear No-Threshold Model (LNT), i.e. no safe dose: “the risk of cancer proceeds in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and that the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans.” However, BEIR only “focuses on the health effects of low levels of low linear energy transfer (low-LET) ionizing radiation such as x-rays and gamma rays.” And, as pointed out “Most radiation sources have a mixture of high- and low-LET radiation. Compared to high-LET radiation [Alpha radiation is high LET; beta and gamma radiation are low LET], low-LET radiation deposits less energy in the cell along the radiation path and is considered less destructive per radiation track.”
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 were 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. [...]
- from enenews