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First fire and now radiation leaks at WIPP in Carlsbad NM force shutdown

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First fire and now radiation leaks that contaminated workers at the ill-fated Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, force a shutdown of the nuclear waste disposal facility. The highest-ever levels of radiation were detected at WIPP. The latest readings come hot on the heels of radiation leaks that triggered a shutdown of the entire facility in February.

Plant personnel discovered the source of the radiation was a leak inside one of the salt tunnels where radioactive material is buried.

The cause of the radiation leaks at WIPP, the United States’ first nuclear waste repository, is under investigation.The out-of-the-ordinary radiation spike recorded at the facility caused plant managers to suspend all operations.

The radiation leaks also forced the transfer of nuclear waste from Los Alamos, scheduled to be shipped to WIPP, to be shipped to Waste Control Specialists (WCS) in Andrews, Texas. This shipment consists of about 1,000 barrels of radioactive leftovers.

By the way, WCS, an above-the-ground money pit controlled by billionaire investor Harold Simmons, has a monopoly on nuclear waste disposal and looks to collect a substantial part of the disposal fees paid for nuclear waste nationally--between $15 and $30 billion.

Scientists monitoring the area around WIPP in Carlsbad, picked up trace elements of radioactive materials in the air. According to AP, Russell Hardy, director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center said the readings of americium and plutonium were the highest ever detected at the disposal site. Air filters were activated at the plant as a precaution and workers were barred from entering the facility.

In any case, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) is pleased that the radioactive waste will be moved out of Los Alamos before the fire season. In June 2011, flames from the Las Conchas fire in Los Alamos burned to within three miles from the nuclear weapons lab, which was “temporarily” storing low-level radioactive waste in an above-ground area at that time.

According to the Associated Press, Udall said, "Removing waste from the mesa in Los Alamos before fire season is critical to ensure safety in the greater Los Alamos community."

You know the old saying, "Better in your backyard than mine."

Even though facility spokesperson Deb Gill told the LA Times, “We are emphasizing there is no threat to human health and the environment,” you have to question that statement when she also says, “officials know very little about the extent of the problem or how to solve it.”

Is it even possible to just keep on burying radioactive waste here, there, and everywhere, and not expect big time trouble?

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