An independent analysis has uncovered trace amounts of plutonium in an air sensor a half mile from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico — the first time plutonium is believed to have leaked outside from within the facility.
It also was the highest levels of plutonium ever detected near the nuclear waste storage facility in its 15 years of operation, according to Russell Hardy, director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center.
“It’s still below what EPA considers actionable levels, but it’s important to know that some material did get out of the facility,” Hardy said.
A WIPP air monitor detected airborne radiation underground on Friday just before midnight, setting off an alert. WIPP reported the next day that its ventilation system had immediately switched to filtration mode, minimizing any potential release of radiation.