89.9 FM Live From The University Of New Mexico
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

WIPP Leak Seal Criticized

A drum containing nuclear waste from Los Alamos National Labs burst in 2014, releasing americium and plutonium at WIPP.

Underground rooms at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant where radiation leaked in 2014 have been sealed off, but nuclear watchdogs are not satisfied.

When the container of nuclear waste burst at WIPP last year, the state environment department ordered the plant to close off the area as quickly as possible.

Now, 14 months later, the Department of Energy has announced the area has been back filled with salt ten feet deep and then sealed off with chain link fence, some cloth and a steel bulkhead. They’ve also installed air monitors.

“Nobody should think this is okay in case of a serious accident,” Don Hancock with the Southwest Research and Information Center said, explaining that the barrier is not a permanent solution. “It’s designed to limit the air flow and to keep people out, but this doesn’t prevent radiation from going through.”

In the past the DOE has built explosion isolation walls to seal off areas containing radioactive materials. They are in the process of negotiating what other steps they must take in order to protect the area at WIPP.

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public input. The agency will host a round table discussion in Albuquerque about WIPP on June 17th beginning at 2:30 p.m. 

Related Content