Employees at the federal government’s troubled nuclear waste dump in New Mexico are planning to enter the underground facility for the first time since a radiation leak contaminated a number of workers last month.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced on Saturday that workers have been training at a Potash mine before re-entering the WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) next week. Officials said employees trained for various scenarios in a two-hour underground session using protective gear and air-breathing units.
The Department of Energy, is planning for workers to set up an operating camp near a salt-handling shaft and then check for a secondary exit in the shaft that controls air flow. They will be seeking the source of the radiation release.
The GDF near Carlsbad in New Mexico ceased taking waste shipments since an underground truck fire on 5th February. Nine days later a radiation release closed the plant. Problems and shortcomings in safety training, maintenance, emergency response and oversight have been cited by investigators following the truck fire.
This week, citing the fire and leak, the New Mexico Environment Department withdrew a preliminary permit for the dump’s request to expand its facility.
It is not known, whether the two incidents are related.
Carlsbad WIPP or GDF, is the only permanent underground repository for low-level radioactive waste in the U.S. and includes items such as plutonium-contaminated gloves, tools and protective clothing, from nuclear weapons facilities.
Source: The Santa Fe New Mexican