Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WIPP Update: DOE reports another Radiation Leak/Outdated equipment blamed for Fire | currentargus.com

#WIPPIncident Update:

19.03.2014

The Dept of Energy reported another #Radiation release at the #WIPP facility outside Carlsbad, NM:

[Department of Energy officials said in a news release Tuesday afternoon that new air sampling data showed a "very small" radiation release on March 11.

Samples collected from the ventilation exhaust recorded 61 disintegrations per minute of americium. DPM measures the amount of radioactive contamination from alpha and beta rays in an area.

Radioactive Leak at Carlsbad New Mexico WIPP Facility - WIPP, the nation’s first and only deep geological nuclear waste repository, takes plutonium-contaminated waste Read More...

Operations at the nuclear waste dump site 26 miles east of Carlsbad were suspended in February after a underground truck fire and radiation leak were reported in separate incidents that occurred 9 days apart.

The DOE believes the most recent contamination was residual radioactive particles that were trapped in the ventilation system from the initial radiation leak. Samples collected before and after that date indicate the radiation at background levels, the department said.] 

Meanwhile in another Press Release DOE claims that RAD Spikes are normal and not related to WIPP Incident:

[Six of the seven department’s air monitoring stations including the one inside Carlsbad city limits had higher radiation levels in March than in Feb. when the leak happened.

Still, officials say there’s no public health threat.

“They’re at no consequence level,” said Nuclear Waste Partnership Communications Manager Donavan.

According to the DOE, the radiation detected inside city limits is not related to the WIPP leak.

“This is normal activity you would see even if WIPP had not been here,” said Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center Director Russell Hardy. “If WIPP were three states away you would see this.”] - KRQE

Editor's Note:  March #Equinox is March 20, 2014, officially kicking off the #SummerofLies - RESEARCH EVERYTHING before YOU BELIEVE ANYTHING - www.usaebn.org


DOE: Another radiation release reported at WIPP

From staff reports
Posted:   03/18/2014 04:21:05 PM MDT


CARLSBAD -- An additional release of radiation occurred at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant on March 11, nearly a month after the first radiation leak was reported.

Department of Energy officials said in a news release Tuesday afternoon that new air sampling data showed a "very small" radiation release on March 11.

Samples collected from the ventilation exhaust recorded 61 disintegrations per minute of americium. DPM measures the amount of radioactive contamination from alpha and beta rays in an area.

Operations at the nuclear waste dump site 26 miles east of Carlsbad were suspended in February after a underground truck fire and radiation leak were reported in separate incidents that occurred 9 days apart.

The DOE believes the most recent contamination was residual radioactive particles that were trapped in the ventilation system from the initial radiation leak. Samples collected before and after that date indicate the radiation at background levels, the department said.

The DOE said it anticipates additional low-level releases on occasion, but officials expect radiation in the environment will remain at safe levels. New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn said the state was briefed of the news Tuesday morning and thinks there is nothing to worry about at this time.

"The level they detected is low and we don't believe there was any risk to public health or the environment but we need to investigate more," he said. New air data will be posted on Thursday of each week as it becomes available at wipp.energy.gov, according to the news release. Department of Energy officials were not available for comment.

WIPP opened in 1999 and disposes transuranic waste, commonly referred to as "TRU," into the Permian-age salt bedrock 2,150 feet below ground. Most of the waste WIPP receives is primarily low-level, solid materials such as discarded tools and cloths used in the manufacturing of Cold War-era nuclear weapons.


Outdated equipment, maintenance problems to blame for WIPP fire, officials say


By Zack Ponce
zponce@currentargus.com @zackponce12 on Twitter
Posted:   03/13/2014 09:24:50 PM MDT
 CARLSBAD >> Ineffective maintenance and poor safety procedures by the Nuclear Waste Partnership and previous contractor Washington TRU Solutions is to blame for last month's underground fire at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, 26 miles east of Carlsbad, according to Department of Energy investigators.
A salt hauling vehicle was set ablaze on the morning of Feb. 5, causing evacuations of all 86 workers who were underground at the time. Six employees were treated for smoke inhalation at Carlsbad Medical Center and an additional seven were treated on-site.




The fire originated in the truck's engine compartment when either hydraulic fuel or diesel fuel made contact with the catalytic converter, according to an accident investigation report released Friday morning by the DOE. Accident investigation chairman Ted Wyka spoke to Carlsbad residents during a town hall meeting on
Thursday evening before the report was released.
The vehicle's operator reported seeing "an orange glow and then flames between the engine and the dump sections of the truck" shortly after unloading salt. The unidentified operator then tried to extinguish the blaze first with a portable fire extinguisher and then tripped the vehicle's manual fire suppression system, but neither action extinguished the flame.
Aftermath of the salt hauler fire underground at WIPP on Feb. 5. -
Courtesy Photo by DOE

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View the executive summary about the fire at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

The fire burned the engine compartment and consumed the front tires, accounting for the black and gray smoke that was seen escaping through the salt handling shaft outside of WIPP.
The EIMCO Model 985 vehicle was 29 years old and had a buildup of salt residue and other combustibles that increased the likelihood of a fire, according to the DOE accident investigation report.
In addition, the DOE found one of the contributing causes of the fire to be an accumulation of combustible materials in the underground that exceeded set limits.



"The board identified the root cause of this accident to be the failure of Nuclear Waste Partnership and the previous management and operations contractor to adequately recognize and mitigate the hazard regarding a fire in the underground," the executive summary stated, calling NWP's fire protection program "less than adequate."
Current-Argus file photo  In this footage provided by WIPP, black smoke rises from the salt mine shaft at the site.
In this footage provided by WIPP, black smoke rises from
 the salt mine shaft at the site. Current-Argus file photo
WIPP removed its vehicle prewash station around 2004 and likely contributed to the poor maintenance of equipment according to Wyka.
"We need to sort of figure something out because we require that vehicles be washed every 100 hours so it's difficult to get rid of the washers," Wyka said on Thursday.
NWP President and Project Manager Farok Sharif was replaced by Bob McQuinn late Wednesday evening. Sharif was demoted to project manager for the TRU Waste Program.



Sharif was the president and general manager of Washington TRU Solutions from 2007 to 2012, the predecessor to NWP that won the contract to run operations at WIPP on Oct. 1, 2012. Sharif helped lead the transition between the two contractors.
The accident investigation board found a total of 10 contributing factors and placed some blame on the DOE Carlsbad Field Office.
The DOE field office was negligent in holding NWP accountable to clean up potential hazards despite repeated deficiencies reported to the CBFO by outside agencies such as the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board emergency management.
DOE's Washington D.C. headquarters was also blamed for not holding the CBFO accountable and generally poor oversight. The agency's headquarters was also blamed for failing to provide the Carlsbad office with adequate funding for hiring staff, maintaining equipment and infrastructure needs.
During Thursday night's town hall meeting, Carlsbad Nuclear Task Force Chairman John Heaton said Washington D.C. should have been aware of the problem.
"We have been begging for maintenance money for the last five years and gotten nothing," he said.
Carlsbad Field Office Manager Joe Franco appears safe for now according to DOE's Office of Environmental Management.
"The Environmental Management team has confidence in Joe Franco and his staff at the Carlsbad Field Office to effectively carry out the recovery efforts at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant," the agency said in an email Thursday. "The Department is committed to providing the resources necessary to safely resume waste disposal operations."
Current-Argus file photo  Underground operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant have been suspended until a federal team of investigators can visit the
Underground operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant have been suspended 
until a federal team of investigators can visit the site. - Current-Argus file photo
The New Mexico Congressional delegation weighed in on the findings shortly after the investigation release.
"This transparent report highlights the sloppy procedures that caused the fire, including failure to regularly clean oil and grease off the engines of mining equipment," said Congressman Steve Pearce in a news release. "I applaud the Department of Energy for producing a candid, transparent report that takes responsibility for its failures in oversight, training and other areas crucial to the operation of WIPP."
Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich were equally disturbed by the findings.
"The findings of the accident investigation board on the Feb. 5 fire at WIPP are deeply concerning," said Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich in a joint news release. "The community of Carlsbad and the nation expect WIPP to operate with the highest level of safety. We believe all levels of management at the Department of Energy and at WIPP must take the recommendations from the board very seriously and fully implement them."







Infograph: WIPP Events and Locations


wipp
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – On February 14, 2014 radioactive contamination from underground WIPP tunnels escaped into the open air. No one was underground, but at least 17 workers on the surface ingested some of the radioactive particles. For more coverage on WIPP»
Below is a detailed description of where the significant events took place:
WIPP web 1
WIPP web 2
WIPP web 3