Plutonium release from the WIPP radioactive waste facility.

On Feb. 5, a salt truck caught fire at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), which is located in southeastern New Mexico, 26 miles east of Carlsbad. No radioactive release was reported on that day.

On Feb. 12, an alarm sounded, indicating high levels of alpha and beta radiation underground. This is consistent with the nature of the nuclear waste stored in the repository. Workers were evacuated. CEMRC (Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring & Research Center) reported that they found 0.64 Bq of Americium 241 & 0.092 Bq of Plutonium 239+240 in the air filter 1/2 mi away from WIPP.

This repository started receiving nuclear waste in 1999 and is expected to hold 3.45 million curies of radioactivity after it is filled in 20 years or so.

I used HYSPLIT to generate a wind trajectory map from the Feb. 14 release. The release was modeled to occur at 8 PM local time on Feb. 14, at an altitude of 50 meters. Cities near the path of the plutonium include Roswell NM, Lubbock TX, Wichita Falls TX, San Angelo TX, and Elk City OK. Wichita Falls got it twice. Each red triangle is a 24-hour interval.

Here is the HYSPLIT plutonium dispersion map for the Feb. 14 WIPP radiation release, for the first 24 hours. It came in somewhat north of the trajectory map, not sure why.

At any rate, people who live in areas of southeastern New Mexico, northwest Texas, and western Oklahoma should all be concerned.

The WIPP repository contains transuranic waste shipped there from facilities like Hanford.

Trans-uranic (beyond-uranium) waste is waste contaminated by elements heavier than uranium (primarily plutonium) with half-lives greater than 20 years and radionuclide concentrations more than 100 nano-curies per gram of waste. Waste with lower concentrations is defined as low-level waste–LLW). Plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years which means that after 24,000 years, half of it will have decayed into other isotopes or elements. All transuranics are man-made alpha-emitters. Alpha particles are relatively large, positively charged particles which are easily stopped by a piece of paper or your skin, but which are extremely dangerous if inhaled. Because of its cancer causing properties, the “acceptable” body dose of plutonium is less than one millionth of a gram, an invisible particle. Yet, even this amount can cause cancer 10-30 years after it is inhaled. When filled, WIPP would contain about 13 metric tons of Plutonium-239…

Transuranic waste is divided into 2 main categories by the amount of radioactivity it carries– contact-handled (CH-TRU) and remote-handled (RH-TRU) waste. CH-TRU waste is limited to a maximum dose rate of less than 0.2 rem (200 millirem) per hour measured at the surface of the drums in which it is packed. CH-TRU accounts for most of the volume of waste going to WIPP. Most of the radioactive content of the CH-TRU waste is plutonium 238-241 and americium-241 and most of the radiation is made up of alpha particles. (Americium emits some gamma rays which penetrate the waste container walls and account for the 0.2 rem being emitted per hour.)

The RH-TRU waste contains much more penetrating radiation in the form of Beta particles and Gamma rays which is the reason it has to be handled by machine in special radiation-shielded rooms called Hot Cells. (An RH-TRU waste canister is shown at left. It is a single-shell vented steel container which will hold three 55-gallon drums.) Most of the radioactive content of this waste is made up of fission products and the radionuclides are more varied: Strontium-90, Ytrium-90, Cesium-137, Barium-137, Plutonium-241, Americium-241 and Cobolt-60. Ninety-five percent of the remote-handled waste can emit 100 rem per hour at the container surface and 5% can emit up to 1000 rem per hour. This is an enormous amount of radioactivity since a dose of 400 rem will kill 50% of all exposed people. Although RH-TRU waste accounts for only around 4% of the total waste by volume, it may account for 33-45% of the total radioactivity…

WIPP goes back to 1957 when the National Academy of Scientists recommended bedded salt formations as the best type of formation for underground disposal of radioactive waste. The actual impetus to go forward with the project came in 1969-1970 when a series of fires at the DOE Rocky Flats facility near Denver, Colorado caused airborne releases of plutonium over parts of the city. (link)

Here is some background on Rocky Flats, which contains some of the radioactive waste that shipped to WIPP, along with Hanford and other facilities:

Rocky Flats was a vital part of the U.S. nuclear weapons program located near Denver, Colorado. Few people knew it existed or what the plant produced.

From 1952 to 1989, the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant produced more than 70,000 plutonium pits or “triggers” for nuclear bombs. Each pit contained enough breathable particles of plutonium to kill every person on earth.

The plant was veiled in secrecy. Colorado residents were kept unaware of the plant’s activities. Workers were not allowed to talk about their work.

There was extensive radioactive and toxic contamination in the air, water, and soil, both on-site and off-site. In addition to plutonium, off-site contaminants included tritium, beryllium, and dioxin, as well as between 1,100 and 5,400 tons of carbon tetrachloride…

There were more than 200 fires at Rocky Flats, the largest occurring in 1957 and 1969. These fires spread radioactive contamination in the Denver metropolitan area, particularly to areas south and east of the site… Elevated levels of plutonium have been found in the remains of cancer victims living near the Rocky Flats site, and many studies indicate ongoing health effects including cancer, leukemia, brain tumors, and other health issues in the surrounding population. (link)

Analyses of the geological and structural problems have found points of failure in a plutonium dump that is supposed to last for 10,000 years:

As noted by Brinster (1989, p. II-19), the Salado is not pure salt, but contains thin beds of anhydrite, polyhalite, glauberite, and mudstone. The salt was formerly believed to be so impermeable that the rooms would remain dry, but small brine seeps appeared soon after the first research rooms were opened, showing that DOE must contend with a wet waste environment. PA recognizes that waste could be carried to the surface along with cuttings from inadvertent oil wells, but all other scenarios involve radionuclides transported in flowing groundwater. The WIPP project might have been aborted if DOE had been more respectful of the historic problems of water in salt and potash mining…

The 13-ft. high by 33-ft. wide rooms will be short-lived. Large open fractures appear in the ceilings of all rooms within months of mining. Several roof-falls and floor heaves have already occurred at WIPP, so an extensive array of roof bolts has been installed to delay the failure of the remaining rooms long enough to fill them with drums. These and all future rooms will suffer collapse of major roof slabs bounded above by weak clay-bed partings. Such falls will crush the drums, and uncontained waste will enter the fractures… At the Canadian mines, the fractures sometimes breach the top of salt into an aquifer, causing inflows that flood the mine (Tofani, R., 1983, Van Sambeek, 1993). After shaft leakage, such roof breaching is the next most common cause of flooding of salt and potash mines, all of which ultimately flood because they lie below the water table. Already there is leakage occurring from the Dewey Lake Redbeds into one of the WIPP shafts, and thence into the repository. In European potash mining experience, such leakage has been irreparable. The first drop of water signals the eventual flooding of the mine. (link)

Radiolysis from the radioactive waste splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, increasing the likelihood of explosions and fires. Decay heat from the drums deforms the salt structure above the rooms.

There were record rains in the area last September, which may have caused seepage and flooding underground in the mine area.

Interestingly, an additional report came out of Russia, saying that Russian waste was (illegally) stored in WIPP and that an “experiment” was conducted on Feb. 5:

A grim “Of Special Importance” (highest classification level) report prepared by the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM) circulating in the Kremlin warned that the “potentially catastrophic nuclear event” currently unfolding at the US atomic Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico has prompted the White House to begin pre-staging government forces and equipment in the event a large-scale evacuation is needed. According to this report, the United States Department of Energy WIPP is the world’s third deep geological repository (after closure of Germany’s Repository for radioactive waste Morsleben and the Schacht Asse II Salt Mine) licensed to permanently dispose of transuranic radioactive waste for 10,000 years that is left from the research and production of nuclear weapons, reported. A “highly significant” portion of the nuclear waste being stored at the WIPP, this report continues, was the result of the recently completed 1993 HEU Purchase Agreement between the United States and Russia that saw 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) from nuclear weapons down blended into low-enriched uranium and then sent to America where it was made into fuel for nuclear power plants, and of which US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz stated, “For two decades, one in 10 light bulbs in America has been powered by nuclear material from Russian nuclear warheads.”

Critical to note, however, this report says, is that the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC), the private American corporation serving as executive agent for the HEU Purchase Agreement, was “deliberately targeted” for elimination by the Obama administration in early 2009 leading to its 16 December 2013 announcement that it had reached an agreement with a majority of its debt holders to file a prearranged and voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring in the first quarter of 2014. Federal Security Service (FSB) intelligence experts contributing to this report say the US wanted to eliminate USEC to divert HEU Purchase Agreement uranium for the purpose of reconstituting it to its highly dangerous U-235 level to conduct experiments at the WIPP on what is called nuclear salt-water rockets (NSWR), which is a proposed type of nuclear thermal rocket designed by Robert Zubrin that would be fueled by water bearing dissolved salts of plutonium or U-235. Under tight strictures put upon it by US law, this report says, the White House needed Russia’s HEU Purchase Agreement uranium for these NSWR experiments and which is not reportable. On 5 February, however, this report continues, these NSWR experiments at the WIPP went “horrifically wrong” leading to an explosion and fire at the underground facility, followed by the 14 February “radiological event” that prompted its full evacuation. Of the greatest concern to Russian nuclear experts, this report says, is the US conducting these NSWR experiments at the WIPP facility in the first place as nearly the entire Carlsbad, New Mexico region is in danger of collapsing due to the massive sink holes appearing over these areas vast underground salt domes. (link)

If true, this would mean that the Feb. 5 event at WIPP was a plutonium release also. A dispersion map was generated for Feb. 5. Cities affected include Las Cruces NM and Alamogordo NM.

110 thoughts on “Plutonium release from the WIPP radioactive waste facility.

  1. NM: THERE’S “NO DANGER TO PUBLIC”, BUT… CEMRC is providing free lung and whole body counting service to concerned adult citizens living within a 100-mile radius of the WIPP facility. This service is available by scheduling an appointment with the CEMRC Internal Dosimetry Lab at 575-234-5530.

    CEMRC, funded through a financial assistance grant by the U.S. Department of Energy Carlsbad Field Office, is tasked with conducting an independent environmental monitoring program of the WIPP facility for the citizens of Carlsbad and southeast New Mexico. CEMRC’s environmental monitoring program consists of the evaluation of samples of various media for the presence of radiological and non-radiological components likely to be found in the waste at WIPP. These media include WIPP underground exhaust air; ambient air around the WIPP repository; drinking water samples from the five municipal water systems in the area, as well as the Double Eagle well field; soil samples from the region around the WIPP repository; and surface water and sediment samples from the three public reservoirs in the area, Brantley Lake, Lake Carlsbad and Red Bluff Lake.

    See more at:

  2. Bobby, this is great research. Thank you so very much. The authorities are not, and will not, give us any information, so I, and many others, are grateful for anything we can find on it. We appreciate you more than you can know.

  3. Thanks Dr. Goodheart. My BS meter went way up with the “truck fire” occurring just before the plutonium release. It’s going to be difficult to get trustworthy info about this.

    • I wish somebody had some info direct from ROSATOM, etc.

      goggle “(ROSATOM) circulating in the Kremlin”

      Word for word, it appears to have originated from a very dubious source.

      It is only a small speck, perhaps, upon an otherwise well-written and informative article.

    • I cannot believe that any amount of Plutonium is “safe”, unless isolated completely.

      “goggling” “deadliest substance known to mankind” seems to have uncovered some whitewashing perhaps, if i have read this correct. The bulk of which being from Oct 2013.

      Quote: “Ralph Nader, noted environmental activist, once claimed that plutonium was “the most toxic substance known to mankind”, but this is not correct.

      Polonium (for example) is more toxic than Plutonium. By mass, polonium-210 is around 250,000 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide (the actual LD50 for Po is about 1 microgram for an 80 kg person, compared with about 250 milligrams for hydrogen cyanide)”
      quoted from:

      Got to love how they make a claim in the last paragraph, yet fail to back it up. Is the exposure internal or external?

      Quote: “5 kg of plutonium was spread over the Nagasaki area (due to incomplete fission) and never cleaned up. The toxicity of plutonium is in dispute; nuclear industry advocates point to the low chemical toxicity of plutonium and ability of a worker to hold a kilogram brick of the material without protection; if inhaled or digested, however, plutonium’s effects due to radioactivity overwhelm the effects of plutonium’s chemical interactions with the body, and the LD50 dose drops to the order of 5ug/kg.”
      quoted from:

      No body mass mentioned.

    • “truck fire” in an enclosed space.
      Was that a forklift truck?

      Am reminded of why it is not good to have a campfire in a small cave.
      The roof could embrittle and possibly collapse!

  4. There was ample testimony in opposition to WIPP regarding the potential/likely dangers of the concept/process. The DOE simply disregarded any inconvenient truths and went ahead. What is more troubling is the apparent disregard of the rules that the DOE agreed to follow.

    If indeed the experiment was conducted with a rocket, uranium and salt underground, this is far outside the scope of what ever was revealed. It would illustrate the deep distrust the public/taxpayers/victims should hold for the DOE’s egregious disregard of public health and safety. Not that most of us ever believed them in the first place.

    • WIPP was a military project to begin with. It never came under the scrutiny of the NRC, not that they are vigilant or anything, but it never had even the most basic kind of regulation. The DOE went hog wild in their disregard of safety issues. So when you hear about experiments, it is likely that they really happened, because they just don’t give a damn about the consequences.

  5. I want to thank you… so very much. The quality of your contributions has been obvious from the first read.
    Without you and the other pilgrims, the true human beings at work on sharing the fruits of their steadfast efforts, we would be in an even darker place. So very dark as it is.
    I am saddened to hear of the losses of friends and family; there will not be an end to this. I lost each of my parents, and a precious friend, to the ravages of cancer. We hear of new cases and deaths here locally, often…quite a few in my little neck of the woods. Young, old and all between…Yet all is quiet.

    I have a son, 24, in CO, near Rocky Flats, and my daughter, age 15, living here with me on the Coast of Maine.
    A side story: In April of 2013 ten eighth grade students and their two adult chaperones travelled to Japan for ten days, (3 in Tokyo, 7 in Aomori Prefecture). I tried in vain to dissuade the school from making that trip. Again in April 2014 coming they are planning to go. Last email I sent to the vice principal went unanswered.

    Our, and our childrens lives, have no value. Nor the life forms and children anywhere on the planet. As you said, They Do Not Care.
    I think its important for that to be acknowledged; the average decent person waking up to this can barely fathom the craven behaviours of DOE,TEPCO, NRC etc etc ad nauseum. It is truly devastating. But I refuse to turn my back on what I have come to know.
    Again, my thanks to you.

  6. My self and my daughter both have a respitory infection and my wife is starting to show signs. We live in elk city oklahoma . What are we supposed to do ?

    • Donnie Ford,… you have a HEPA filter air purifier?
      I would also tape up windows and doors,…remove shoes in the home,….and pray! We are ALL downwinders now!

    • Donnie, Jill is right, a HEPA air purifier is the #1 thing to get. Please keep us apprised of health issues… I do that same thing here in regard to Fukushima radiation.

  7. What are you talking about? Nothing will get much past the WIPP boundaries, only a Bq was seen near the gate at the CEMRC Hivols. Modeling in Texas is nonsense. As the previous Director of CEMRC, I know these issues quite well, and this is the first release at all from WIPP in 15-years of operation. If you what to put nuclear waste away for ever and ever, this is the place, no matter the source of the waste.

    • Jim, thanks. I take issue with the “forever and ever” part.

      We don’t know what happened, and we don’t know if this incident is the first chain in a long string of mishaps, or not. Do you know if they have video cameras down there? That might give us some clues.

    • Perhaps you can tell us why Obama canned the Yucca Mountain repository construction project after billions had already been spent it was nearing completion.

  8. DEADLY WARNING: Initial Plutonium Cloud Size ~110 MILLION Bq, On Going Releases @ ~6,667 Bq PER MINUTE

    WIPP planning documents indicated that their ventilation system has 3 fans, which which add up to at total ventilation capacity of 20,000 Cubic Meters of Air per minute. The ventilation system has 4 circuits. It is unclear which circuits are running, or at what rates. It is also unclear if there are even higher concentrated released going out of the other shafts at the plant. But given the information available, the wise risk mitigation based measurement for current releases is 400,000 DPM’s every single minute.

    • Do you agree with Potrblog’s warning?

      I’m thinking we may have to re-locate if the winds in Carlsbad turn westerly.

      Now we know why Carlsbad always had such high rad net readings. I bet they’ve been having problems at that facility for some time and now they’ve significantly worsened.

      • Majia, I don’t know. We have reports here on two deaths near Carlsbad and respiratory problems in Elk City.

        I do think that mountains in the path between Phoenix and WIPP would pose an obstacle to the plutonium somewhat.

      • My second husband lives in Hobbs, NM. I may just break down and ASK.

        For the record,…I would move. But,….I just did that 9 months ago,….and I moved to the second worst area! From Cali to The DC area! Radchick said they did helicopter readings in Baltimore in January 2014! 🙁

        • I don’t think it’s as bad here as in Michigan. They have plant mutations… I have been out looking for them, and haven’t seen them. Other kinds of plant damage, yes it’s here.

  9. Dud February 23, 2014 at 10:27 PM
    I’m being actively blocked from Bobby1’s blog.
    It’s occurring from my end.
    Am able to proxy in, yet not able to complete my train of thought.
    Reports that it is “just me”.

    Somebody apparently can’t handle the truth right now, IMHO.

    I know not what to suggest for those downwind. Remember the hard lessons of Katrina, Sandy, etc. When disaster strikes, governance is immediately nowhere to be found, let alone relied upon. Do what you can to learn and know fact. Make preparation for the worst, and hope for the best. Remember from where all Blessings and Wisdom flows.

    Those with mindsets of children are indeed leading… 🙁
    Except here on this and similar blogs. 🙂


    • Uh oh some funky stuff going down on the internet end here.

      Quote: “When taken in by mouth, plutonium is less poisonous (except for risk of causing cancer) than several common substances including caffeine, acetaminophen, some vitamins, pseudoephedrine, and any number of plants and fungi. It is perhaps somewhat more poisonous than pure ethanol, but less so than tobacco; and many illegal drugs. From a purely chemical standpoint, it is about as poisonous as lead and other heavy metals. Not surprisingly, it has a metallic taste.”
      No doubt this is not experience speaking! Note the entire “Toxicity” section is entirely devoid of supporting citation. “Less so than tobacco”??? “From a purely chemical standpoint,” they are unambiguously “Nucking Futs!”
      Won’t this substance (et al) become more “interesting” once the fungi “find out” about it?. Put that in your pipe and smoke it (once again) “ewworldencyclomedia”.
      Quote: “Approximately 0.008 microcuries absorbed in bone marrow is the maximum withstandable dose. Anything more is considered toxic. Extremely fine particles of plutonium (on the order of micrograms) can cause lung cancer if inhaled.”

      Is this closer to fact? I don’t expect much from anything “new world” (tend to lower my expectations so as not to be disappointed), yet might it be that one can glean some facts.

      Quote: “One proposal to dispose of surplus weapons-grade plutonium is to mix it with highly radioactive isotopes (e.g., spent reactor fuel) to deter handling by potential thieves or terrorists. Another is to mix it with uranium and use it to fuel nuclear power reactors (the mixed oxide or MOX approach). This would not only fission (and thereby destroy) much of the Pu-239, but also transmute a significant fraction of the remainder into Pu-240 and heavier isotopes that would make the resulting mixture useless for nuclear weapons.”

      This brings up the most pertinent question: “What isotopes of what elements are involved in the release(s)?”

      Quote: “Metallic plutonium is also a fire hazard, especially if the material is finely divided. It reacts chemically with oxygen and water which may result in an accumulation of plutonium hydride, a pyrophoric substance; that is, a material that will ignite in air at room temperature.

      Plutonium expands considerably in size as it oxidizes and thus may break its container.
      The radioactivity of the burning material is an additional hazard. Magnesium oxide sand is the most effective material for extinguishing a plutonium fire. It cools the burning material, acting as a heat sink, and also blocks off oxygen. There was a major plutonium-initiated fire at the Rocky Flats Plant near Boulder, Colorado in 1957. To avoid these problems, special precautions are necessary to store or handle plutonium in any form; generally a dry inert atmosphere is required.”

      … and the last attempt disappeared again.

      I won’t quit – i don’t give up.

      For the second time, ONE MORE TIME!
      (If this ends up a triple-post, quad, quintuplet sextuplet post, etc. i sincerely apologize Majia)

      Quote of Ontological (less the JavaScript): “Ok I have a note to add here, there is a crap load of fracking going on all around this area Carlesbad in near the center of the south east New Mexico fracking zone. Betcha all this nearby drilling disturbance helped that salt mine storage chamber roof collapse.
      quoted from:

      Quote of jec (less JavaScript): “Local whistle blowers here:
      quoted from:

      Quote of Sickputer: “”People work in the underground storage facility. They need large quantities of fresh air to survive. The ventilation system provided in the WIPP moves a lot of air in and out of the underground cavern – 425,000 standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM) to be exact. Though the exhaust air can be directed through HEPA filers whenever there is any indication that it is contaminated, it is not routinely filtered because the filters would be routinely less than 100% capable and would require frequent maintenance or replacement with no added value.”

      Credit to Rod Adams at Atomic Insights:

      SP: You can bet the farm that they will be fully venting those salt cavern “panel” rooms and clearing it out to protect workers. The downwinders will get a sampling like we always have.

      Even Hanford Site built concrete vaults to secure high level waste. Several days ago I posted a picture of one they dug up recently as a decommission project.

      With fracking going on nearby I have to wonder if a man-made earthquake might have compromised the panel rooms. They may need to rethink the no-concrete room strategy. The NM state officials would be gung ho also to add a few thousand more jobs to boost their economy. ”
      quoted from:

  10. Hi Bobby,

    Did you read the following article?
    Google Trends shows more and more Japanese searching the words “Heart” and “Hurt”

    I urge you to try the trend search by yourself. (I DID, and I felt like Neo in the Matrix.)

    Here are two astonishing query results on twitter.

  11. I live in Wichita Falls, Texas. Is there anything we can do, should we consider moving, or is it too late? I have to say the article left me a bit distraught. Is the waste in the air or perhaps fallen to the ground? I’d appreciate any advice you can give. Thanks!

    • As far as is known, there were one or two puffs of plutonium released. The prudent thing is to get a HEPA air purifier, and/or HEPA furnace filters. I always take my shoes off when I enter my home, so as not to track radioactive substances onto the floor.

      We really don’t know enough yet. This event has enormous potential for contamination, but at the same time, we don’t have any evidence of releases more than the puffs.

  12. I live in San Angelo as does my whole family and I am worried. I will suggest everyone go see their own doctors and be checked out. Thank you for posting this information because I wouldn’t have known about the wind trajectory. I did hear about the leak but I had no idea about the other.

  13. OK… I’ve read all the above articles/comments…. Question to anyone… Are you guys saying these “releases” are done purposely ?? Or accidentally? Either way, we’re “Done… U can stick a fork in us”!!! But dang!! I’m in Midland, TX…not by choice…we need these articles printed in every newspaper/social website….everywhere in the US for “starters”….
    My thanks to all of you !!

    • There so desperately needs to be a Manhatten-like Project to deal with the “nukular” wastes!!!
      It could be justified by researching how to remotely render “nukular” weapons to simply “dirty bombs”.

      Before stating that is not possible, remember that “science” still does not know exactly what precisely constitutes over ninety percent of the universe …

      Apologies for not having posted yesterday. Sumac Ridge Chardonnay 2010 – lovely! ;3

  14. Just In: ‘New tests show elevated radiation’ near U.S. nuclear site — ‘More airborne radiation detected’ around WIPP — Gov’t issues press release on ‘radiological event’ (MAP)

    Albuquerque Journal, Feb. 24, 2014: New tests show elevated radiation near WIPP — New test results indicate “slightly elevated” levels of airborne radiation near a nuclear waste repository in southeast New Mexico, the U.S. Department of Energy said Monday. […] The DOE said the data show a potential dose of less than one millirem — a calculation of radioactivity exposure — at each of the sampling locations. […] WIPP has been collecting numerous air and soil samples since a radiation alert was sounded on Feb. 14.

    ABC News, Feb. 24, 2014: More Radiation Detected Near New Mexico Nuke Site — More airborne radiation has been detected in southeastern New Mexico from a leak at the nation’s first underground nuclear waste dump. The U.S. Department of Energy said Monday the results are from samples collected last week at numerous air monitoring stations […] Last week, DOE officials confirmed the first-ever leak at the facility. It stores plutonium-contaminated waste […] The results are consistent with the kinds of waste stored at the plant […] Carlsbad’s mayor has scheduled a community meeting Monday evening.

    U.S. Department of Energy Press Release, Feb 24, 2014: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today reported new environmental monitoring data […] Results indicate slightly elevated levels of airborne radioactive concentrations, which are consistent with the waste disposed of at WIPP. The samples taken demonstrate these concentrations remain well below a level of public or environmental hazard. The samples were collected by WIPP radiological and environmental monitoring personnel February 17-18 […] the release data showed a potential dose of less than one millirem at each of the environmental sampling locations. […] WIPP is continuously monitoring the environment, and the latest air monitoring results ranged from 1.3 to 4.4 DPM [disintegrations per minute] based on preliminary analyses. […] Numerous air, soil and water samples have been collected on and around the WIPP site since the radiological event on February 14 […]

    • Ah, finally!

      Quote of Nick (February 24, 2014 at 2:34 pm): “February 14 , 2014 – The New Mexico Environment Department is begining a 60 day public comment period for a DRAFT Class 3 Permit Modification.”

      Does this latest event jeopardize the Class 3 Permit Modification?

      Will the public comment during this 60 day period?”

      quoted from:

      No words i can think of at this time can really express how distressing it is to know my neighbors south of 49 are being mistreated.

      Quote of Dr. Gordon Edwards (1994): “It is extremely unlikely that a U.S. geologic repository will be ready to receive nuclear wastes of any kind before 2015. Consequently vitrified waste logs, with or without plutonium from weapons, will have to be stored in engineered facilities until a geologic repository is ready to receive them; with plutonium in the logs, safeguards would be required. The same is true, of course, for spent fuel from nuclear reactors.”

      ” Complete elimination of plutonium has received considerable attention in debates over disposition of excess weapons plutonium. As noted above, the additional costs and complexities of the elimination options for excess weapons plutonium would be of little benefit unless also applied to other accessible plutonium, including the global stock of plutonium in spent fuel.

      At the same time, in considering possible elimination options for that larger stock, it is essential to remember that as long as nuclear power is being produced by fission of U- 235 in fuels that also contain U-238, plutonium will continue to be produced. Thus until nuclear power in no longer produced in this way, there cannot be a plutonium-free world. . . .”
      quoted from:

      Wasn’t Hanford supposed to pinch out some of those logs?
      I can only shake my head in dismay.

      Shut the nuke pukers down. Don’t just leave the waste in the spent fool pools, though! We need the best and brightest minds on “Manhattan Project, Part Two” AKA “Waste Want Not”, not more greedy wolves in chicken hawk attire!
      The clock is ticking…..

  15. Are you watching our live coverage of the WIPP radiation leak town hall meeting?
    They’re at the question-and-answer portion. Moderator John Heaton is threatening to kick Carlsbad mayoral candidate Martin Mills out of the meeting for his behavior. CARLSBAD — Around 300 Carlsbad residents packed the Pecos River Village Conference Center Monday for the chance to ask officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant about last week’s radiation leak.

  16. Listen to the Congresswoman say “low level radioactive waste”. This is nearly Pure plutonium of a toxicity that is incomprehensible to the average individual. It is the remains of the US world destroying nuclear arsenal. There is NOTHING LOW LEVEL about this waste and no rational, intelligent person would say something so ignorant. I can’t believe she said that. I thought nothing could surprise me anymore.

  17. Bobby1,…..if I had a nickle for every place I’ve seen YOUR work,…in just the past two weeks,…..well,….I’d be in South America already!

    I emailed vgirl to tell her you have ‘arrived’! Which pleases the hell outta me,…..enough UNSUNG HEROES,…along side the “I saw it first” crowd!

  18. Breaking: 13 WIPP employees exposed to radiation

    CARLSBAD — Thirteen employees of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant were exposed to radiation, according to test results taken the day a radiation leak was detected at the nuclear waste repository.

    The workers tested positive for americium-241, one of the radiation particles emitted from the transuranic waste deposited in the nation’s only underground waste repository, located 26 miles east of Carlsbad, and were notified on Wednesday by Department of Energy and Nuclear Waste Partnership officials. On Feb. 14, radiation was detected underground at the plant. The following week, the radiation was also found in air filter above ground, roughly half a mile from the site. “It is premature to speculate on the health effects of these preliminary results, or any treatment that may be needed,” said DOE Carlsbad Field Office Manager Joe Franco in a written letter. “However, on-site sampling and surveys and environmental monitoring, to date, continue to support National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center modeling, which indicates that airborne contamination was likely at very low levels.”

    NWP spokesman Donavan Mager said that “there is no way the radiation could be spread” because workers were only exposed to an internal dose of radiation.

    • In what has turned out to be one of the most-read stories at Red Dirt Report, the “radiation incident” at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico two weeks ago has generated intense interest locally, around the country and around the world.

      And as this story grows by the day – with a mix of denials, obfuscation and half-truths from local and federal officials – we learn late Wednesday that the Department of Energy has stated that 13 WIPP employees were exposed to radioactive particles, most likely Americium-241, that mysteriously escaped from the underground “tombs” where the highly-radioactive “trasuranic” waste is stored.

      Whether or not more people in the surrounding area were exposed is as yet unknown…

      Considering the unprecedented interest in our story on this incident, it is clear that the public is nervous about this release and what really happened.

  19. What we know with some confidence

    1. Apparently, one or more of the 258 contact-handled waste containers underground in Room 7 and Panel 7 ( released radioactive and toxic chemicals. The presumed location of the release is about 1,500 feet from the continuous air monitor that triggered the filtration system. The release spread contaminants through more than 3,000 feet of tunnels, up the exhaust shaft (2,150 feet), into the environment, and to the air monitoring Station #107, approximately 3,000 feet northwest of the exhaust shaft. Thus, the release covered a distance of at least a mile and a half from the area of release to the Station #107.

    2. The Station #107 filter was removed on Sunday morning, February 16 at approximately 9:40 am. The Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center (CEMRC) laboratory analyzed the filter and on Wednesday, February 19 reported that it found 0.64 becquerels (Bq) per cubic meter of air of Americum-241 and 0.046 Bq per cubic meter of air of Plutonium- 239+240. ( Those measurements were consistent with waste in the WIPP underground. The DOE agrees that there was a release of radioactivity onto the surface.

    3. CEMRC retrieved another filter from Station #107 on February 18. The laboratory analysis showed no detection of Plutonium 239+240 and 0.007 Bq of Americium-241. Samples from Station (about 325 feet from the exhaust shaft) found 0.115 Bq of Plutonium 239+240 and 1.3 Bq of Americium-241. (

    4. CEMRC reported to SRIC that it has received 10 filters from the Station A (exhaust shaft sample prior to HEPA filtration) on Tuesday, February 18. Several filters were received from Station B (exhaust shaft sample after the HEPA filtration system) in the evening on February 19. CEMRC expected to have initial results from those filters in from two to five days after receiving
    them, but has yet to post them on its website.

    5. As of mid-day on Thursday, February 20, WIPP Manager Jose Franco reported some amounts of radiation were continuously registered in the continuous air monitors for Panel 7, but that the amounts were three orders of magnitude lower than the highest levels of 4.4 million disintegrations per minute.

    6. No workers were underground when the radiation leak was detected and none of been underground since that time. As of February 24, the expectation is that it could be two to three more weeks before anyone goes underground to investigate the release. In the meantime, plans are being developed for the underground recovery effort and to determine the extent of the above ground contamination.

  20. Some are saying that NO ONE can go down there again-EVER!

    The two to three week WAIT,… quite a red herring-imo
    What is three more weeks wait going to do? Yet, no one asks!

    I am in agreement. I watch what they do,….ignoring their moving lips!

    I do not think ‘we’ will see ANYONE going down. This will tell the tale for me.

    • They will probably start rounding up homeless people and make them go down there, like they are doing at Fukushima. That’s what those 1,200 radiation suits are for.


    This public notice issued on February 14, 2014, announces the beginning of a 60-day comment period that will end at 5:00 p.m. MST, April 15, 2014. Any person who wishes to comment on the draft Permit or request a public hearing should submit written or electronic mail (e-mail) comment(s) with the commenter’s name and mailing address to the address below. Only comments and/or requests for public hearing received before 5:00 p.m. MST on April 15, 2014 will be considered.”

    quoted from:

  22. Wow, the americium and plutonium in the workers’ bodies just went away? This hasn’t happened since the oil in the gulf of Mexico suddenly went away after the BP oil spill.

    “Department of Energy: Follow-up testing shows no health risk for exposed WIPP employees

    The Department of Energy says employees at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant exposed last month to airborne radiation can relax.

    Department officials said Wednesday afternoon that despite many unknowns, the employees are unlikely to experience any adverse health effects.

    Follow-up tests of the 13 workers at the nuclear waste repository located 26 miles east of Carlsbad came back negative for plutonium and americium. Trace amounts of the two radioactive isotopes were detected in initial tests released by the Department of Energy on Feb. 26.”

    • Interesting… this article admits that the initial testing was positive for BOTH americium and plutonium.. which the test for americium is always for in this case. They were saying just americium previously. But then they deny the whole thing.

  23. Quote: “Albuquerque Journal, Guest Column, Mar. 6, 2014: WIPP release story doesn’t add up […] I also support southern New Mexico’s quest to be the nuclear processing economy of the country, cradle and grave. […] The recent accident at [WIPP] is unbelievable to me. Nearly 20 years ago I went to WIPP, rode the elevator down, saw the tunnels […] Transuranic waste, the exclusive purview of WIPP […] is classified as a subset of Low Level waste, but it contains things that are far more radioactive than anything classified as High Level Waste. […] I want to hear what really happened down there. WIPP was envisioned and engineered to never have a release for 10,000 years. […] I remember who I thought were the hysterical ones testifying to the endless public panels before WIPP opened. One read into the record a long scenario with specific chemicals leeching together, fire and the resulting black smoke belching from the horizon. That person described in great detail the underground circumstances leading up to the release that nobody thought would ever happen. That person, whoever it was, was kind of old back then, and I wonder if he’s alive to see it. I’m now thinking he may get to say, “I told you so.””

    Quoted from:

  24. Great article, thank you for all the great information. The startlingly obvious fact that gas emissions are not stopped by the HEPA filters and thus are released into the environment was like a ball peen hammer between the eyes.

    However, you might want to consider whether you want to leave the information about the Nuclear Salt Water Rockets in. Sorcha Faal does have a terrible reputation, nearly zero credibility. I used to say the same thing about TNR. I always check their sources though, because every once in a while real information slips in with the Disinfo.

    Not in this case. None of the links Sorcha Faal references in their story confirm the information being cited. Another Sorcha Faal story made up out of whole cloth. As soon as I reached that section in your post I knew it would turn out to be Sorcha Faal, as their stories have a very consistent style to them.

    I admit, I was kind of shocked to see a Sorcha Faal story here.

    Obviously it’s your call whether to keep it or not, but personally I think it hurts the credibility of your work.

    Thanks again for the great work. I’ll be lurking around if anyone has questions.


    • aHEMagain, I thought about removing that material also. But it calls into question the “truck fire”, and I would like to leave that as an open question, whether it was involved in the plutonium release, until the truck fire can be conclusively established.

  25. Air Testing Lapse At New Mexico Nuclear Waste Dump Blamed On Staff Vacancy

    State regulators failed to collect air samples in the week following a radiation release at a New Mexico nuclear waste dump because of a vacancy in the office responsible for monitoring the site at the time, a state official said on Friday…

    Surface-air monitoring conducted beyond the site by facility managers and university researchers in the days after the accident showed detectable trace amounts of radiation apparently had drifted from the plant. But state and federal officials likewise said they believed those levels were too small to pose a threat to humans or the environment.

    However, additional independent air sampling required of the state Environment Department was never conducted during the first week after the accident due to a staff vacancy at the agency’s Carlsbad office, spokesman Jim Winchester said.

    State sampling resumed a week after the radiation leak, said Susan Kamat, director of that office.

    A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency review of air testing in February and March found discrepancies in recorded times and dates of sample collections, flawed calculation methods, conflicting data and missing documents. It also found the facility sometimes said air samples contained no detectable levels of radiation when measurable levels were present.

  26. Worker Sues WIPP Nuclear Site For Negligence In Fire, Facility Operation

    The first worker from WIPP has filed a lawsuit claiming widespread negligence at WIPP by the Department of Energy and the network of contractors that operate the facility…

    The first worker to file suit has experience considerable smoke inhalation damage that is ongoing. Also mentioned in this lawsuit that is new, there were 6 workers who suffered severe enough smoke inhalation to be sent to the hospital. There were a total of 85 workers in the mine at the time of the fire. DOE and the contractor had previously characterized the mine as being with minimal staff at the time of the fire.

    • Quote: “… Stimpy’s “Gritty Kitty” poem?

      “Gritty Kitty ain’t so pretty, but it’s really thick
      It fills my cat box oh so snug, it always does the trick
      I like to rub it on my toes and squish and squish and squish
      It ne’er offends my tender nose, like a smelly fish
      Its texture is a joy to me, it’s just as smooth as silk
      It makes my little whiskers twitch, it stays crunchy even in milk
      I may not be the president, I may not be the pope
      But as long as I have Gritty Kitty, I shall never mope.” ”

    • mom, WIPP plutonium got mixed in with rain and snow in a storm that moved across the US at the time. So it is possible that the plutonium got in there. But plutonium binds to clay, and if you have clay soil, it’s unlikely that it made it to the well.

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