U.S. Eyes 'Phase Two' of Radiation-Leak Response

A New Mexico nuclear-waste facility is planning the next stage of its response to two accidents there in February, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reports.

The Energy Department said crews would seek to restore "habitability" to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, which has remained largely off-limits to personnel since contaminants escaped there and spread to 22 workers. The incident took place on Feb. 14, days after an unrelated vehicle fire at the site near Carlsbad.

"Once employees perform initial underground safety checks, they will begin conducting additional radiological surveys, restoring mine habitability, removing soot from the Feb. 5 truck fire, and performing ground control and monitoring," the Energy Department said in released remarks.

Initial activities would "involve evaluating underground equipment and verifying specific areas are contamination-free and that the passageways are safe following filter replacement activities," according to the agency's press release. "Then, workers will restore these areas to conditions that support employees working in the underground facility."

The department said a parallel operation would seek to confirm the cause of the nuclear leak -- which appeared to coincide with a container rupture -- and look for any additional waste barrels that may have been compromised.

Personnel so far have only been able to examine waste drums near the entryway to one facility storage area, according to the Current Argus. They are examining several alternatives for reliably moving video-recording equipment through the room, the newspaper reported.

July 2, 2014
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A New Mexico nuclear-waste facility is planning the next stage of its response to two accidents there in February, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reports.

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