TV: US Senators want federal agents near WIPP to check if safe; “A lot more people could have been hurt a lot worse” — Public “skeptical whole truth about environmental risks shared” — Report: “It will shut WIPP down for a year or more, and now everyone is talking about maybe WIPP is no good” (VIDEO)

Friday, March 28, 2014
By Paul Martin
March 27th, 2014

Sante Fe Reporter, Mar. 26, 2014: […] When WIPP will reopen for business is unclear. Several longtime observers say they expect the facility will remain closed for about a year while underground surfaces are treated […] DOE declared, “There is no danger to human health or the environment” […] Since then, the steady dribble of information has stoked confusion and skepticism among some in the public. While the energy department said on March 9 that urinalysis results indicated workers had not inhaled radioactive particles into their lungs, the next day it issued a correction to say it was possible a “small amount of contamination was inhaled.” Complete test results on more than 100 people haven’t been disclosed yet. […] state and federal agencies plan to deploy additional air monitors around WIPP and in Carlsbad.

James Conca, former director of Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center: “It’s going to take a year.” […] it seems it will shut WIPP down for a year or more, and now everyone is talking about maybe WIPP is no good.
Don Hancock, Southwest Research and Information Center: The answer is “unknowable…until we have a lot more information. What happened? Why did it happen? Is it a systemic problem that is likely to happen again? How much decontamination will be required? This is going to take a while to get results.”
Brandy O’Connor: Skeptical that the whole truth about the environmental risks has been shared […] she hasn’t discussed the leak with her children because “they’ll freak out […] I’ve never had to worry about something like this before […] I just try not to think about it.”
Van Romero, a physics professor and vice president of research at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro: The “bigger problem” underlined by the radiation leak is that the risk of such an event occurring “wasn’t as small as we thought it was […] So either there was a scenario they didn’t consider, or they didn’t do the proper analysis or… something way outside of the norm happened.” […] A key question for WIPP in planning the underground contamination remediation effort will be to decide “how clean is clean enough.” Workers, after all, will face long-term exposure in the environment.
Carlsbad native Rachel Good, a 57-year-old gas-station clerk: She is rattled by the fact that she and four family members have all had cancer. […] “The only thing you can do is leave […] I guess if I was really concerned, I’d do more studying (about radiation’s risks). Maybe I don’t want to know, like the ostrich that puts its head in the sand.”

KOAT, Mar. 26, 2014: A new investigation claims officials at the nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad didn’t do enough in advance to keep workers and the community safe. It also says officials waited too long to tell workers about a radiation leak. […] A lot more people could have been hurt a lot worse, and major changes are needed so the next emergency isn’t a tragedy. […] Senator Udall calls this report deeply troubling and says, “We need a zero-tolerance approach to serious accidents.” In fact, Udall and Heinrich are now calling for federal environmental agents to soon head to Carlsbad and test the air to make sure it’s safe. The report also says workers were not told to shelter in place, until 10 hours after the first sign of a potential leak […] the Department of Energy’s emergency center in Washington DC was never notified.

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