Paper: WIPP workers “not permitted to speak” — “Their jobs won’t ever be the same… will face new paradigm” — Concerns plutonium penetrated surrounding salt — Preparing for radiation levels so high, only robots can be used (VIDEO)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
By Paul Martin
April 22nd, 2014

Albuquerque Journal News, Apr. 22, 2014: WIPP workers face big changes, Their jobs won’t ever be the same — Now that contamination has been discovered underground – although the extent is still unknown – the contractor that runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant says workers will face a new paradigm when they return to the site: more formality, tougher rules and more protective gear. […] those working underground will likely be doing their jobs in a more hazardous environment – or one where the risks have been made more evident – with new rules of engagement to protect them from exposure to radiation. […] plutonium and americium may have contaminated rock salt walls, mixed into dust on the floor, and clung to machinery and other equipment underground. If stirred or scuffed up, the radiation can become airborne and inhaled. […] NWP workers are not permitted to speak to the press, according to a spokesman.

Bob McQuinn, new president/project manager of WIPP operator: “The place […] now has, not more than the rest of the sites, but similar radiation protection hazards […] Now we’re going to have to wear protective equipment – coveralls, shoe covers and gloves – to make sure contamination doesn’t get on us and respirators so it doesn’t get in us. People who haven’t had to wear protective equipment will have to.”
Dr. Fred Mettler, radiologist and US representative to the United Nations World Health and Atomic Energy Agency: “The first rule of thumb is nobody thinks any of this is good for you. So you want to keep doses as low as possible. Medically, it’s very, very difficult to get the stuff out of you.”
Jim Frederick, United Steel Workers assistant director of health, safety and environment: “Is this place going to be safe for our folks to go back to? […] What was not in place that might have kept this from happening? And what do we need to do to keep the workers safe and make sure the public health risks are kept at zero or very, very close to zero?”
KOAT, Apr. 20, 2014: “The more they went into panel 7, the more it started becoming more widespread,” said WIPP deputy recovery manager Tammy Reynolds. […] Inspectors plan to go back down and explore things further, but in case the radiation levels pose too much of a threat, robots will go underground instead. “Robot operators have already been to the WIPP site, received all of the training to go to the underground,” said Reynolds.

Carlsbad Current-Argus, Apr. 22, 2014: The robots are on standby to support the recovery operations […] robots will only be used if workers can’t access the suspected contamination source.

The Rest…HERE

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