Crews searching for the source of a radiation release from the government’s underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico did find damaged bags of minerals in the mine, but they still don’t know what caused the leak.
The U.S. Department of Energy said workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant found several huge bags of magnesium chloride placed on top of waste containers to absorb moisture, and carbon dioxide ended up “grossly disturbed.” They don’t know, however, what damaged the bags.
And officials say they haven’t found any structural damage in the waste-storage area of the repository near Carlsbad, NM.
The waste dump remains closed since a Feb. 14 leak sent low levels of radiation into the air, contaminating 21 workers.
In a report that came out in late April, investigators said managers mishandled a radiation leak the waste dump where 21 workers suffered exposure to airborne radioactive particles due in part to substandard equipment and safety systems, a U.S. investigator said.
But the contamination from the underground salt mine in the Chihuahuan Desert — where they store radioactive waste from U.S. nuclear labs and weapons facilities – would not likely harm workers’ health, inspectors said.