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Fire At Nuclear Waste Repository

Safety: No radioactivity released in incident at New Mexico facility

by Elizabeth K. Wilson
February 7, 2014

A fire at WIPP was in a section of the facility separate from the part that houses nuclear waste.
A fire at WIPP was in a section of the facility separate from the part that houses nuclear waste.

Firefighters doused a Feb. 5 fire at the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) that caused no release of radioactivity or damage to the facility, WIPP officials say.

The plant in Carlsbad, N.M., which began operations in 1999, is a permanent repository for transuranic waste left over from nuclear weapons research and production.

WIPP released no details about the cause of the fire, which started in a salt-hauling truck. Officials said the truck was underground in the north section of the plant, while nuclear waste is located in the south section. An investigation into the fire’s cause is under way.

An undisclosed number of employees were treated at a local hospital for possible injury from smoke inhalation and then released.

According to WIPP, emergency response teams extinguished the fire and applied a fire-suppressing foam to prevent reignition. WIPP says it determined the air inside the plant is safe to breathe.

“Worker training and emergency response actions were successful in protecting workers and minimizing equipment damage and impact to the repository and transuranium mission,” WIPP officials say.

“At no point did the fire threaten the waste disposed of at WIPP, nor was the community or public ever at risk,” says Rep. Steve E. Pearce (R-N.M.).


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