March 10, 2014
The Department of Energy announced Sunday that 17 workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad have tested positive for radiation contamination, an increase from 13 workers the department previously reported.
The radiation leak was detected Feb. 14 by a WIPP air monitor, and higher-than-normal levels of plutonium and americium, which are cancerous when consumed, were then found. The leak spread from underground, as plutonium was detected at an air sensor a half-mile away. It’s the first leak in the plant’s 15 years of operation.
Radioactive waste comes to WIPP from federal nuclear weapons research and production sites across the country, including Los Alamos National Laboratory.