Feds discuss WIPP at town hall meeting

Posted at: 03/06/2014 12:33 PM
Updated at: 03/07/2014 8:46 AM
By: Danielle Todesco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

It was not a huge turnout Thursday night at the Walter Gerrells Performing Arts Center in Carlsbad.  The U.S. Department of Energy held a town hall meeting to release more information on its efforts to recover from a radiation leak last month at the nation's only underground nuclear waste dump.

Several dozen residents, workers, elected officials and others turned out for the evening meeting, but the large auditorium at the edge of town was nearly empty.

Still, some residents who did show up had concerns.

"I came to the meeting to calm my fears because I've been very worried about it," said Carlsbad resident and mother of two, Cynthia Schaefer.

Questions about what caused the leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the extent of the contamination and the future of the federal government's national nuclear cleanup efforts have been swirling for weeks now.

Some of the uncertainty was quelled late Wednesday when officials announced that the level of radioactive particles being captured by monitoring stations in the Carlsbad area had decreased significantly and were close to normal.

Officials said further testing on the 13 workers who were at the plant at the time of the leak shows they aren't likely to experience any serious health effects.

Department of Energy officials said work is ongoing to get air-monitoring equipment into the mine that will pave the way for specially trained crews to enter. 

"The team will identify the source of the contamination and a plan to mitigate the source will be developed and implemented.  We will not rush through this process," Nuclear Waste Partnership President Farok Sharif said Thursday.

The Department of Energy has set up a twitter account to update the public on the WIPP radiation leak.  That twitter handle is @WIPPNEWS