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U.S. radiation leak raises Ontario questions via The Star

Nuclear waste site in New Mexico has been hailed as a model for a proposed Bruce site.

Radiation has leaked from a nuclear waste site in New Mexico that’s been held up as an example by proponents of a similar site in Ontario.

Ontario Power Generation, which wants to build a site for low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste near Kincardine, says it’s still trying to find out more about what happened at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M.

OPG is seeking permission to build a storage site for low- and intermediate-level waste at the Bruce nuclear station.

The storage area, to be carved from rock 680 metres below the surface, has sparked vigorous debate about whether it should be located on the shore of Lake Huron.

[…]

The waste was produced as part of the U.S. nuclear weapons program.

By Feb. 6, officials with the department of energy reported that the situation was “stable,” with minimal damage, adding “there is no waste in the vicinity of the fire.”

It’s not clear whether the fire had anything to do with what happened next.

On Feb. 15, a monitor detected airborne radiation underground. On Feb. 16, another release said there was no surface contamination. That lasted until Feb. 19, when the department acknowledged “trace amounts” of radioactive elements had been detected on the surface.

On Feb. 24, the department reported “slightly elevated levels of airborne radioactive concentrations,” from samples “collected at numerous locations on and around the Waste Isolation Pilot Project.”

The type of radiation was consistent with the material stored at WIPP, the department said.

On Feb. 26, the department said 13 employees who had been on site Feb. 14 had tested positive for “radiological contamination.”

All the affected employees had been working above ground.

Follow-up tests have shown that the contamination was very low, and investigations continue, though underground storage areas remain sealed off.

Local media in New Mexico said that officials assured a town hall meeting Thursday night there is no danger to public health.

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