A U.S. nuclear waste facility in New Mexico is creating serious concern on Sunday when radiation escaping from the repository was detected, according to news organizations.
An air-sampling monitor located at the Carlsbad, N.M., Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) detected high levels of radioactive particles that are being characterized as "abnormal" in nature, according a Department of Energy press statement.
Roger Nelson, the DOE spokesperson, said that none of the facilities staff were working underground at the time of the leak and no injuries, human contamination or damages have been reported.
DOE noted that more than 135 employees were above ground during the leak and they were told to stay away. Tests for exposure to radiation were conducted and all of the workers' results were negative.
While the radiation is considered ultra-hazardous, it can doesn't easily penetrate human or animal skin, but it is extremely harmful and life-threatening if swallowed or inhaled, according to Reuters.
But, according to the Centers for Diseased Control, "internal contamination is caused by humans swallowing or breathing in radioactive materials, or if radioactive materials enter a body through an open wound or are absorbed through the skin. Some types of radioactive materials stay in the body and are deposited in different body organs."
On the other hand, external contamination exists when radioactive material, in the form of dust particles, liquid or powder contacts a person's clothing, skin, or hair. However, the CDC warns that men or women "who are externally contaminated can become internally contaminated if radioactive material gets into their bodies."
According to an Examiner news story:
"The DOE is the agency charged with regulating the safety of nuclear facilities. A key part of DOE's self-regulation is the Office of Health, Safety and Security (HSS), which develops, oversees, and helps enforce nuclear safety policies.
"At the request of the US Congress in 2008, the Government Accounting Office reviewed relevant DOE policies, interviewed officials and outside safety experts, and surveyed DOE sites to determine the number and status of nuclear facilities. GAO also assessed oversight practices based on a series of reports on DOE nuclear safety and discussions with nuclear safety experts.
"HSS falls short of fully meeting GAO's elements of effective independent oversight of nuclear safety: independence, technical expertise, ability to perform reviews and have findings effectively addressed, enforcement, and public access to facility information."
The cause of the WIPP radiation leak remains unknown, according to reports on Sunday.