WIPP Radiation Leak Timeline:
Feb. 14 – Airborne radiation was detected underground and WIPP was locked down.
Feb. 20 – Four days later, the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center reported that radiation was discovered in an air filter a half-mile away from the facility.
Feb. 26 – Twelve days later, it was discovered that 13 employees who had been above ground at the time of the leak had inhaled radiation.
On February 14, a radiation leak was discovered underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), a nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad. Four days later, radiation was found in an air filter a half-mile away.
Our thoughts go out to the 13 workers who have been exposed to the radiation. The Department of Energy (DOE), which runs WIPP, said that while the amount of radiation is small, there is no way of determining the overall health impacts of this exposure.
There have been a variety of efforts to expand the mission of WIPP to receive other, potentially more dangerous, forms of waste. If proponents of this type of expansion had succeeded, this leak would have been a whole lot worse.
The only reason expansions haven’t occurred is because concerned New Mexicans have spoken up – loudly – for decades. New Mexico agreed to host the WIPP facility only after strict parameters were placed on the type of waste it would receive and after state regulators were guaranteed a strong role in its oversight.
More than two weeks later, there are more unanswered questions than answered ones.
Here are only a few of the questions New Mexicans deserve answers to: What caused the release? How much cancer-causing plutonium was released? When will WIPP workers be safe returning to work underground? What decontamination on the surface and underground will be done? And perhaps most important, what will be done to prevent this sort of disaster from happening again?
The DOE has not provided the answers to any of these questions. Why not? At a press conference last week, the DOE only allowed one question per reporter. When a nuclear waste facility that was “never going to leak” leaks, the people deserve answers. The 13 WIPP workers and their families deserve answers. Tell the DOE that you’re waiting for them to give us the answers we deserve.>>
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