Following last Tuesday’s false alarm at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center (CEMRC), a division of the College of Engineering at New Mexico State University, conducted both non-destructive gross alpha/beta screening and isotopic destructive analyses of a WIPP Station B exhaust air filter collected the morning of August 5, 2015 to determine the levels of radioactive contamination present on the filter during the false alarm time period.
Results from these independent radiological analyses show that radiological contamination present on the WIPP exhaust Station B filter for the August 4, 2015 timeframe were below background levels and do not represent any harm to the environment or to public health.
Isotopic analyses show that only a trace amount of WIPP-related radioactive isotopes, primarily Americium (241Am) and Plutonium (239+240Pu), were detected on the filter. Further, the levels measured were very low and quite typical of measurements found on previous Station B WIPP exhaust filters analyzed by the CEMRC after the February 14, 2014 underground radiation event.
The CEMRC was established in 1991 to conduct an independent environmental monitoring program of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for the citizens of Carlsbad and Southeast New Mexico. The WIPP is owned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and is the nation’s only deep underground geologic nuclear waste repository. The repository is located approximately 28 miles east of Carlsbad, NM and is situated 655 m (2150 ft.) below ground level.
The CEMRC laboratory is equipped with sophisticated instrumentation that is able to detect radiological contaminants at levels below normal background. Results from CEMRC’s monitoring program are available to the public as the public has a right to know what effect, if any, WIPP operations have on their environment and how its effect may impact public health.
Scientists at the CEMRC continue to monitor the environment in and around the WIPP repository and will continue to notify the public in the event of any release detections. For more information regarding the CEMRC’s environmental monitoring activities contact Dr. Russell Hardy, Director at (575) 234-5555 or visit the CEMRC’s website at www.cemrc.org .WIPP