Workers Exposed to Radiation At New Mexico Nuclear Waste Site

By Mónica Ortiz Uribe
February 28, 2014
Courtesy of
Entrance to the Waste Isolation Power Plant.

Officials with a nuclear waste site in New Mexico are monitoring the health of 13 workers who tested positive for radiation exposure.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico is the only dump site in the nation for nuclear weapons waste. The site belongs to the U.S. Department of Energy and has been managed by Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC since its opening in 1999.

The waste is stored in underground rooms mined out of an ancient salt bed. 

On the night of Feb. 14, monitoring devices at the facility detected an unexpected cloud of radiation underground. Nearly two weeks later preliminary tests show 13 employees were exposed to some level of radiation.

At a press conference Wednesday, officials said they are awaiting additional tests to determine the severity of that exposure. None of the employees have been recommended to seek medical treatment, they said.

Officials also said that based on their air monitoring results the town of Carlsbad, 26 miles away, is in no danger. Waste shipments to the plant are currently suspended and the cause of the radioactive leak is still under investigation.