NPR : News

Radioactive Leak At U.S. Waste Dump Was Preventable, Report Says

A February accident at a nuclear waste dump that resulted in the contamination of 21 workers resulted in part from "poor management, ineffective maintenance and a lack of proper training and oversight," a Department of Energy report concludes.

NPR's Geoff Brumfiel says the report, released Thursday, says the release of radioactive material into the environment from the Feb. 14 accident at the underground Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M., could have been prevented. The facility is a repository for defense-related nuclear waste.

The 300-page report cites a degraded safety culture, lack of training and poor maintenance for the radioactive release.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

"The accident occurred in one of the facility's waste-storage vaults, which are more than 2,000 feet underground. But some radioactive contamination was able to reach the above-ground environment and contaminate 21 workers at the site. The exposures aren't expected to cause health problems, Energy Department officials said."

An emergency filtration system designed to keep contamination below ground was not able to contain it all and some radioactivity escaped to the surface, Brumfiel says.

"Much of the blame falls on the contractor that runs the site, Nuclear Waste Partnership. But the report also blames the Energy Department itself for failing to adequately oversee the facility," he reports.

DOE Accident Investigation Board Chairman Ted Wyka identified numerous problems with the handling of the situation, which he said resulted from "degradation of key safety management and safety culture."

Among other things, it took hours for managers to implement emergency procedures, he said.

"The bottom line is they failed to believe initial indications of the release," Wyka said, according to the AP.

The Journal says:

"The report is the latest blow to the image of the facility, which had been held up as a success story by government officials in the nation's often-troubled effort to deal with the radioactive legacy of the atomic-weapons program. The 15-year-old plant, 26 miles east of Carlsbad, N.M., holds more than 171,000 containers of radioactive waste from the weapons program in vaults dug out of salt formations."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

From Medical Maggots To Stench Soup, 'Grunt' Explores The Science Of Warfare

When it comes to curiosity, science writer Mary Roach describes herself as someone who is "very out there." Her new book, Grunt, looks at some scientific developments that help keep soldiers safe.
NPR

Venezuela Is Running Out Of Beer Amid Severe Economic Crisis

The country's largest beer producer, Empresas Polar, halted operations because the government restricted access to imported barley. But the president has pinned the entire food crisis on Polar.
NPR

Donald Trump Attacks Federal Judge Involved In Trump University Case

Donald Trump continues to face lawsuits over his for-profit education company, Trump University. Trump accused federal judge Gonzalo Curiel of bias in one case, and said the judge, who is from Indiana, "happens to be, we believe, Mexican." NPR's Ari Shapiro talks to Washington Post political reporter Tom Hamburger about the case.
NPR

Weather Technology Falters Amid Communication Breakdown

Springtime is severe weather time in many parts of the United States. Strong storms and tornadoes can be a daily occurrence. Technology has improved to warn people days in advance, but effectively communicating severe weather remains elusive.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.