DOE Issues WIPP Radiological Release Phase II Investigation Report

DOE News:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (EM) released Thursday the Accident Investigation Board (AIB) Phase II Report related to the Feb. 14, 2014, radiological event at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad. 

The AIB completed an exhaustive investigation at WIPP and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to examine the cause of the radiological release at WIPP and identify managerial controls and safety measures necessary to prevent or minimize the probability or severity of a recurrence of this type of accident.

Based on post-event chemical, radiological, and fire forensic analyses, the AIB concluded that the release was caused by an exothermic reaction involving the mixture of organic materials and nitrate salts in one drum that was processed at LANL in December 2013.

The Board also concluded that an underground salt haul truck fire that occurred at WIPP Feb. 5, 2014, did not cause or contribute to the radiological release event. The AIB’s findings identify shortcomings within both contractor and federal processes at LANL, WIPP, EM, and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

“WIPP is an important national resource that will recover from this unfortunate incident,” said David Klaus, DOE’s Deputy Under Secretary for Management and Performance. “The errors that led to the shutdown of the facility were preventable, and we are developing corrective actions that provide greater rigor in all aspects of the oversight of TRU waste disposition.”

This report follows the AIB’s Phase I Report, which focused on the immediate response to the radiological event. The AIB also conducted a separate investigation into the February 5, 2014, truck fire in the underground portion of the WIPP facility.

To read the report and obtain additional information, visit the EM’s website.

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