Friday, February 28, 2014

WIPP workers inhaled plutonium

This is very bad news.
Thirteen employees who worked the night shift at a nuclear waste burial site in New Mexico after an underground leak are carrying radioactive materials in their bodies, but it is too soon to say how much health risk this poses, Energy Department officials said on Thursday.
The workers inhaled plutonium and americium, which if lodged in the body bombards internal organs with subatomic particles for the rest of the person’s lifetime. The dose calculation is a bit arcane because the dose in such cases will be delivered over many years.
Calculating a lifetime dose will require several urine and fecal samples, taken over time, to determine the rate at which the body is eliminating the materials, said Joe Franco, manager of the Energy Department’s Carlsbad, N.M., field office, which oversees operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, where bomb wastes are buried in an ancient salt bed deep beneath the desert.
This account confuses me---it says that the exposed workers were on the night shift after the leak, but the story also says that no workers were in the mine when the radiation was detected at 11:30 pm on Feb. 14. Wouldn't the workers who were on site the next morning when above ground radiation was detected have been on the day shift? Or were the exposed workers those above ground on the 14th?

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