Of the 13 WIPP workers, none tested positive in the chest counts, which indicates they have no detectable radioactive contamination deep in their lungs. These results were confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control.
Q. What indicated the initial 13 employees had possible contamination?
A. Initial fecal samples measured some radioactivity above normal background levels; follow?up urine samples show no detectable amounts of radioactivity.
Q. Is there concern that the release was related to the fire event?
A. It is highly unlikely due to the distance between the location of the salt haul truck fire and the continuous air monitor (CAM) that detected airborne radiation. Personnel were in the underground on Feb. 13 and the morning and afternoon of Feb. 14; no airborne contamination was present. Filters analyzed from the underground exhaust on the morning of Feb. 15 contained isotopes consistent with transuranic waste, making a connection between events highly unlikely.
Q. When will we see release data from WIPP?
A. Available data results are posted on the WIPP Web Page at www.wipp.energy.gov Recovery Information Center.
What's Next For WIPP?
Safety Inspections of Mine Shafts Are Next Step in Recovery Process
A package of work and safety controls required before safe re?entry can take place at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) has been prepared by Nuclear Waste Partnership, the management and operations contractor at WIPP. The package will be submitted to the Department of Energy for review and approval, the next step before sending personnel into the WIPP underground facility to understand the source of the recent radiation release.
The safety inspections of both the Salt Handling and Air Intake shafts, which require personnel to ride the mine hoist, or elevator, to the bottom of the shaft, will begin after WIPP receives DOE approval. This activity will then be followed by a second personnel entry into the mine to assure a safe route between the Salt Handling and Air Intake shafts, and to ensure two exits from the mine. The third entry will be made to identify the source of the radioactive contamination.
National Experts Bring Skills to WIPP
The Department of Energy and Global Management & Operations Services (GMOS), a division of URS, and parent company to Nuclear Waste Partnership, have engaged experts across the nation to support WIPP recovery efforts.
DOE and the Mine Safety and Health Administration have mobilized experts to supplement the Carlsbad Field Office in key areas, including nuclear operations, ventilation systems, nuclear safety and mine safety.
DOE's Savannah River Site sent a team of radiological control technicians, who will re?enter the mine with experienced WIPP personnel to isolate and mitigate the source of underground contamination.
Idaho National Laboratory provided a plutonium event recovery expert and additional radiological equipment.
Los Alamos National Laboratory provided a high efficiency air particulate (HEPA) filters specialist.
URS?CH2M Oak Ridge, contractor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, brought radiological cleanup expertise to WIPP.
MJW Corporation provided experts in occupational and radiation medicine and health physics.
And URS Global Management and Operations Services sent resource management, recovery personnel and experts in documented safety analysis; robotics; environmental, health and safety management; communications and web page design.