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Serious "radiation incident" at NM waste facility has public concerned via Google
This wind-dispersion map shows where plutonium and americium particles are said to have blown following a "radiation event" at a New Mexico nuclear-waste facility on 2/14/14.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – While being played down and barely even reported in the national media, a fairly serious radiological event occurred at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a federally-operated nuclear waste repository 26 miles northwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico on Feb. 14, 2014.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reported on Feb. 19, 2014 that a “radiation event” took place sometime between Feb. 11 and Feb. 16, 2014. Released from the salt mines 2,150 feet below ground, where the nuclear waste is stored were trace amounts of americium and plutonium.

John Heaton, chairman of the Carlsbad Nuclear Task Force reportedly said: “At this time there is no concern. We definitely know that the amounts are miniscule. I think the risks are extremely low and I certainly have no worries about it personally.”

Heaton said he does not want the public to jump to any “rash conclusions” about the “radiation event.” He said investigators will have to go underground and look to see what happened within the next month or so.

Another person interviewed for the Current-Argus report was Russell Hardy, director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center. He assured the public that americium and plutonium are “heavy” and won’t travel far from the original source.

CEMRC and the Department of Energy have been working hard to downplay the seriousness of this event and information on where the wind may have blown the plutonium and americium is scarce. CEMRC, interestingly enough, is offering folks living within 100 miles of the WIPP facility to get free tests if they think they have been somehow exposed.

Hardy, meanwhile, reiterated that his personnel at the New Mexico State University-affiliated CEMRC “have detected trace amounts of the radioactive isotopes americium and plutonium on an air filter from an ambient air sampling station located approximately six-tenths of a mile northwest” of the WIPP facility.

What caused this event still remains unclear. The investigative research blog, reported this past Thursday that their research concluded that “All indications are that this was a radiation induced explosion of hydrogen, methane and/or VOC produced from radioactive wastes which are too radioactive to handle, which also happen to be coated with hazardous waste.”

There is also reportedly a "Russian connection" to WIPP, according to this report - a report we have been unable to independently verify.

Curiously, a little over a week before the Feb. 14 “radiation event,” a salt truck operating underground at the WIPP’s north mine, caught on fire, resulting in the evacuation of all WIPP personnel. While the DOE was investigating the cause of the truck fire, “the radiation leak occurred,” reports the Current-Argus. It is thought that there may have been a plutonium release connected with that incident as well, although it is not confirmed.

WIPP is the nation’s only disposal facility for transuranic waste, commonly referred to as “TRU” waste, which is radioactive material generated from the nation’s nuclear weapons program during the Cold War era,” reports the Current-Argus.

The Current-Argus reporter following the story, Zack Ponce, reported that tomorrow – Monday, Feb. 24, a town hall, looking to answer questions from the public, will be held at the Pecos River Village Center Carousel House in Carlsbad.

“This forum will allow the members of the public the direct opportunity to ask WIPP officials their questions,” said Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway in a Current-Argus report.

And there is a lot officials still don’t know about this “radiation event.” The Albuquerque-based Southwest Research & Information Center – SRIC – notes that there are many things still unknown about this serious event, including:

1.What caused the released.

2. What was the nature of the release that allowed some contaminants to travel more than a mile-and-a-half.

3. What radionuclides in what amounts and what toxic chemicals in what amounts have been released.

4. Where all the contaminants that were not captured (by the filters) are, whether inside the WIPP boundary or outside the site area.

And those are just a few of the questions SRIC is currently asking.

Meanwhile, “downwinders” in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma should be on alert, according to the Feb. 22, 2014 report from in their article “Plutonium release from the WIPP radioactive waste facility.”

Wind-trajectory maps from the Valentine’s Day nuke release shows cities in the path of the plutonium to include Roswell, New Mexico, the Texas cities of Lubbock, San Angelo and Wichita Falls, and Elk City, Oklahoma.

The report adds: “At any rate, people who live in areas of southeastern New Mexico, northwest Texas and western Oklahoma should all be concerned.”

Here is a link to the dispersion map provided at

And recall that this past December, Red Dirt Report reported on a “fire” that took place at Unit 2 of the Arkansas Nuclear One plant in Russellville. As with the WIPP facility accident, the Arkansas Nuclear One accident was hardly reported.

And while we are on the subject of nuclear disasters, on Feb. 28, 2014, at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, there will be an event called “Nuclear Remembrance Day” held on the 60th anniversary of the catastrophic Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb test that was conducted on Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954 in the Marshall Islands. The fallout of that nuclear test created a horrific humanitarian nightmare over generations, including high rates of thyroid cancer, leukemia and other radiation-induced diseases.

Of course the media does not like revisiting that event or covering anything related to nuclear weapons or radioactive “incidents.” Look at the clampdown on real information regarding Fukushima and the contamination of wide swaths of the Pacific Ocean and elsewhere. Big Nuke has a powerful grip on the media.

As notes: "New Mexico is America's newest "Bikini Atoll" of nuclear research;  cause you can't just let a good nuclear disaster go to waste. Just tell the natives its all safe; then offer them free "Health" research and track them over the years.

We will continue to monitor this story as it develops.

UPDATE (Feb. 25, 2014): See our follow-up story on this incident here

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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