Team To Re-enter New Mexico Nuclear Waste
Site After Radiation Leak
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[March 28, 2014]
(Reuters) — An investigative team
plans to re-enter an underground nuclear waste site in New Mexico next
week for the first time since an accidental release of unsafe levels of
radiation there last month, a U.S. Energy Department official said
U.S. authorities now say that 21 workers at the Carlsbad-area
"waste isolation pilot project" (WIPP) were exposed to radiation
after the accidental leak from the site, which stores waste from
U.S. nuclear labs and weapons production facilities.
Eight workers will test air for contamination as they seek to make
their way into an ancient salt formation half a mile below ground
where radioactive waste is stored, Energy Department spokesman
Bradley Bugger said in a statement.
The team will wear protective clothing and use self-contained
breathing devices in a mission designed to determine the cause of
the February 14 accident.
Testing of surface air in and around the Energy Department complex
has shown elevated levels of radiation since the mishap, but those
have steadily decreased. None reached concentrations considered
harmful to human health or the environment, Bugger said.
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He added that four additional employees at the facility in the
Chihuahuan Desert have tested positive for contamination based on
more stringent testing protocols. That brings to 21 the number of
workers who inhaled or ingested particles emitted from the decay of
radioisotopes like plutonium while working above ground on February
14 or the following day.
The amount of radiation the workers took into their bodies is very
low and they are not expected to experience ill health effects,
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Bernard Orr)
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