|AFP Photo/Johannes Eisele|
About one week after a leak resulted in record levels of radiation near the United States’ first nuclear waste depository, more airborne radiation has been detected, according to the Associated Press.
The latest readings were confirmed on Monday by the US Department of Energy, which stated that multiple air tracking stations around the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, are monitoring the situation.
Earlier this month, a sharp rise in radiation levels forced WIPP managers to suspend operations at the plant. As RT noted previously, the WIPP is one of three deep nuclear repositories in the world, storing leftover radioactive material 600 meters underground. The cause of the initial spike was linked to a leak inside one of the underground salt tunnels that holds nuclear waste.
Despite the leak, officials said that no employees were underground when the alarm sounded, and no one’s health had been harmed. They added that radiation levels were still significantly below those outlined by Environmental Protection Agency’s safety standards. Even with the new radiation readings, officials said there was no threat to the public.
As explained in a Science for Environment Policy News Alert, the study calculated the atmospheric deposition of the two radionuclides using a widely respected circulation model and focused specifically on emissions in gaseous form. The study also took into account factors that might affect radionuclide concentrations upon dispersion, including precipitation, wind patterns, particle sedimentation and radioactive decay.
After crunching the numbers using relatively conservative estimates, the research team postulated that a land area measuring 34,000 square kilometers (km2), or about 13,000 mi2, was effectively contaminated with more than 40 kilobecquerels per square meter of the two radioactive substances. This level is considered by the International Atomic Energy Agency to be the threshold for what is considered to be “contamination.”