Emissions, Nuclear, O&M

Workers find damage to underground radioactive storage bags at WIPP

Photos taken from re-entry into the underground storage area of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico showed damage to bags of magnesium oxide.

The bags are placed on top of waste containers to prevent the radioactive material from releasing into the environment over a 10,000-year period. The U.S. Department of Energy said it did not know what caused the damage to the bags, but video and eyewitness accounts confirmed there were no issues with the roof or walls in the disposal room.

The storage area has been shut down since air monitors detected a radiological release on Feb. 14. Air samples have been taken from 15 locations since the event, and results after Feb. 18 have shown no contamination.

DOE also said there was progress on the cleanup of the Waste Hoist tower and hoist control area, which was coated with a layer of soot from the Feb. 5 underground salt haul truck fire. Workers cleaned the fifth floor of the tower and are now concentrating efforts on the third and fourth floors. The hoist is normally used to transport waste to the underground facility, but will be used to carry recovery personnel and equipment underground during the recovery effort.

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