Employees working at the nation’s underground nuclear waste dump in New Mexico when it started leaking didn’t show signs of external contamination, but 13 workers at the plant suffered from exposure to radiation.
All the workers at the plant when the leak occurred on Feb. 14 were checked for contamination before being allowed to leave, the news release said. But biological samples were also taken to check for possible exposure from inhaling radioactive particles.
The DOE and Nuclear Waste Partnership, who are responsible for operating the plant said in a joint statement, “It is important to note that these are initial sample results, these employees, both federal and contractor, will be asked to provide additional samples in order to fully determine the extent of any exposure.”
Officials claim they can tell from their analyses of air samples in and around the plant that a container of waste leaked, but it will take weeks to get underground and determine what caused the leakage. Possible scenarios include a ceiling collapse or a forklift puncturing a canister, Farok Sharif, president of the Nuclear Waste Partnership, said Monday before a community meeting in Carlsbad.
The accident is the first-known release of radiation since the dump near Carlsbad began taking plutonium-contaminated waste from the nation’s nuclear bomb building sites 15 years ago. It came just nine days after a truck hauling salt in the plant’s deep mines caught fire, but officials say they are confident the incidents are unrelated.
Symptoms of radiations exposure vary depending on how much radiation the individual absorbed, length of exposure to radiation, and the strength of radiated energy in the contaminated area. Some initial symptoms are usually nausea and vomiting. In general, the greater the radiation exposure, symptoms will develop more rapidly and more severe.
13 New Mexico Plant Workers Suffered Exposure To Radiation.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.