Radioactive waste has been stored rather uneventfully at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in New Mexico for well over a decade. An old salt mine has been used to isolate containers of radioactive waste far underground. The containers have been transported to the site from old bomb-making factories and other Defense Department facilities located around the country.
Two Accidents in Nine Days
Now, two incidents have happened within nine days of each other. First, a truck hauling salt deep in the mine caught fire. Then, on Feb. 14, radioactive particles were detected in and around the plant. Now, 13 workers have tested positive for elevated levels of radioactivity. It is unknown at this point whether any of the affected workers might suffer any future health consequences from the radioactive exposure.
On Feb. 26, a joint statement was issued by the U.S. Dept. of Energy and the Nuclear Waste Partnership. The latter is the contractor that operates the facility. The statement emphasized the “preliminary” nature of test results, and that further information would be distributed in the future. The elevated levels of radioactive particles detected around the plant are claimed to pose no public health hazard to those that were not working in the facility at the time.
Possible Ceiling Collapse Cited
At a community meeting held in nearby Carlsbad, New Mexico, the president of the Nuclear Waste Partnership suggested that the leakage may have been caused by either a forklift puncturing a waste container or even a ceiling collapse. Due to the now-elevated levels of radioactivity in that part of the underground facility, it was expected to be many weeks before more will be known about the nature of the accident.
Exposure to radioactive substances can potentially produce long-term deleterious health effects. As a result, workers compensation claims could possibly be filed in such a case. We can provide additional information about workers compensation laws and how they might pertain to your situation. To speak directly with workers compensation lawyers about a workplace injury that you or a family member have suffered, please contact us.