An additional four employees at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico have tested positive for radiation exposure following a leak in underground storage on site.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said a total of 17 employees, including 13 previously reported, show extremely low levels of radiation, and none appears to have been inhaled into the lungs. Testing at the site shows there is no significant contamination offsite, and no adverse health effects are expected for the public or the environment, the DOE said.
Workers tested the Salt Handling and the Air Intake Shafts to check for airborne radioactivity and determine air quality. Preliminary findings show no detectable contamination in the air on the equipment lowered and returned to the surface.
“This process is critical in helping determine the proper personal protective equipment needed for our personnel entries,” said Tammy Reynolds, WIPP Recovery Process Manager for Nuclear Waste Partnership, the management and operations contractor. “We will do a final analysis of these samples before we send anyone down. The safety of our employees is foremost during this process.”
On Feb. 14, continuous air monitors detected airborne radiation from the underground storage site. Nuclear waste, some of it from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, is stored at WIPP.
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