13 WIPP workers contaminated by radiation

Posted at: 02/27/2014 9:29 AM
Updated at: 02/27/2014 6:32 PM
By: Lauren Hansard, KOB Eyewitness News 4

More workers at the nuclear waste plant near Carlsbad will be tested for radiation.

This comes after more than a dozen workers were exposed.

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant officials held a news conference Thursday where they confirmed 13 employees tested positive for radiation.

Officials say those employees are being taken care of.    

“I am responsible to ensuring that my employees are safe at all times at our facility.  So, I can tell you that my employees are in no way in any harm or danger at the time of the incident or ever since then,” said Farok Sharif, Nuclear Waste Partnership President.

The employees inhaled particles of radiation while working above ground the night of the leak on February 14.

Now officials will test employees who worked the day after the leak to see if they have been exposed.

Every day, between 300-500 employees work at the plant.

Even with the plant being shut down, WIPP said more than 100 workers showed up for work Thursday.

And according to WIPP officials, many others are ready to come back.

“Amazingly enough, my employees are very anxious to get back to work," said Sharif.

Amidst all of the understandable concerns, WIPP officials are adamant there is no need to worry and the public is not in danger.

But there are still a lot of questions that even WIPP officials don’t know.

“So, for me to say I don't know that is the most accurate information that I have," said Sharif.

They won’t know what caused the leak until they re-enter the underground facility which they said could take weeks.

“Let me emphasize again, we will not rush this process,” said Sharif. “We have a plan to ensure that our employees are safe and we will not deviate from this plan."

Airborne radiation was detected a half-mile from the plant.

WIPP said the levels tested so far are less than you would get from a chest x-ray.

More testing is expected over the next few weeks.