SANTA FE – A drum at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has been singled out as having contents – including a discarded glove containing lead – that are most similar to those in a barrel that popped open due to a chemical reaction in February, causing a radiation leak that has shut down the underground nuclear waste dump.
In a presentation to state legislators Tuesday in Carlsbad, Terry Wallace, Los Alamos National Laboratories’ official in charge of the investigation of what happened at WIPP, said it’s still not known what started the reaction. Previously, lead in the glove from a worker that processed waste has been cited as among the potential igniters.
A second LANL drum with similar contents and which is in an unsealed area of WIPP also is said to have a glove in it, Wallace disclosed at the Tuesday meeting.
“I cannot guarantee that second drum won’t go (have a chemical reaction), nor can I guarantee that all conditions are likely to make it go,” Wallace said, according to a report in the Carlsbad Current-Argus.
The report says there are 678 remediated drums that are “higher risk” because of the mixtures in the containers. Most are at WIPP, but 113 were sent to an Andrews, Texas, facility shortly after the February leak and 57 still require additional processing at Los Alamos.
Of the 678, 16 have absorbed free liquid with pH levels similar to the one that leaked, eight of those have absorbed free liquid with “organic liquid neutralizer” – an apparent reference to wheat-based kitty litter – and just two of those eight have gloves containing lead. One of these two drums is the one that leaked.
A spokesman for the New Mexico Environment Department provided this statement: “We can simply say all drums that have similar constituents to the breached drum have been isolated at LANL and/or Waste Control Specialists (in Texas) and are being monitored by DOE. The Environment Department instructed DOE to take these extra precautions several months ago and we have been informed such protective measures are in place.”
Read more at Concern over another WIPP drum