On February 14, 2014, there was an incident in the underground repository at the Department of Energy Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico, which resulted in the release of americium and plutonium from one or more transuranic1 (TRU) waste containers into the environment. The WIPP is a deep geologic repository, mined out of a thick bed of salt, for the disposal of defense TRU waste generated primarily from the cleanup of DOE sites. The release was detected by an underground continuous air monitor and then directed through high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter banks located in the surface exhaust building. However, a measurable portion bypassed the HEPA filters via design leakage through two ventilation system dampers and was discharged directly to the environment from an exhaust duct. No personnel were determined to have received external contamination; however, 21 individuals were identified through bioassay to have initially tested positive for low level amounts of internal contamination as of March 28, 2014. Trace amounts of americium and plutonium were detected off-site.
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