Official: Radioactive material escaping everyday from WIPP and dispersing — Top officials “not made available for comment” — Expert: Leaks from ‘unfiltered’ ducts went on for weeks

Friday, March 21, 2014
By Paul Martin
March 20th, 2014

Carlsbad Current Argus, Mar. 19, 2014: [Last week’s radiation release] incident is believed to have been caused from a buildup of radioactive particles that eventually escaped the duct much like smoke from a chimney, and officials anticipate more residual releases until the original source of last month’s radiation leak can be fixed. “Small amounts (of radioactive particles) are escaping everyday and we’re going to see those spikes every once in a while,” said Donavan Mager, spokesman for the Nuclear Waste Partnership. “It’s so small that it’s going to disperse quickly. Everything is working the way we expect it to and as it was designed, otherwise you wouldn’t see any (particles escaping) if the leak was contained.” […] WIPP officials said Wednesday they plan to test the mine’s HEPA filters to ensure they’re working as expected. […] DOE and NWP officials will provide another public update at the weekly Carlsbad town hall meeting on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the city council chambers on 101 N. Halagueno Street. DOE Carlsbad Field Office Manager Jose Franco and newly-appointed NWP president Bob McQuinn were not made available for comment on the situation.

Nuclear Hotseat with Libbe HaLevy, Mar. 18, 2014 — Don Hancock, The Southwest Research and Information Center (at 38:45 in): There are normally 3 ducts that the air comes out on the surface, and all of those are supposed to be closed when the ventilation system goes into filtration mode (i.e. Rather than venting the underground air into the environment, the underground air first goes through this filtration process with the HEPA filters). DOE always maintained from the beginning that everything was working fine. It wasn’t until about 3 weeks later that they said, ‘Well we sent a worker in to put foam in the dampers of those 3 ducts that vent to the outside because they were almost totally closed, but not totally closed, and so there was leakage coming out of them.’ So again there was some radioactivity coming out beyond what might have passed through the filters themselves. DOE now says that those have been sealed off, and so the ventilation and air all has to go through the filters.

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