13 WIPP employees exposed to radiation from leak

Operators of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) facility near Carlsbad, New Mexico, have notified 13 employees that they were exposed to radiation from a recent leak at the facility. On the evening of February 14, a continuous emissions monitor (CEM) device at the plant, an underground repository where DOE stores transuranic waste from other facilities in the department’s nuclear weapons complex, detected elevated levels of airborne radiation underground. Under the site’s Radiological Control Program, officials tested employees working there at the time for signs of exposure and on February 28 notified the 13 employees that they had exhibited positive preliminary bioassay results. In a letter sent to residents of the surrounding area, Joe Franco, manager of DOE’s Carlsbad Field Office, said “it is premature to speculate on the health effects of these preliminary results, or any treatment that may be needed.” Separately, DOE has said that the samples taken “demonstrate these concentrations remain well below a  level of public or environmental hazard.”