Radiological Release Event at WIPP, Department of Energy, Apr. 2014 (emphasis added):
- At 0014, on Saturday, February 15, the [Central Monitoring Room Operator] attempted to notify the on-call Radiological Control Technician (RCT) but was unable to reach him. The effluent sample Station A, Skid A- 2 and Station D shutdown due to low air flow or clogged filter paper. [...] Station A skid A-2 filters upstream of the HEPA filters in the Exhaust Filter Building, were changed out at 0637 by the [Radiological Control Manager]. It was noted during the change out that the filters had an orange tint. [...]
- On March 6, two ventilation system dampers that were known to have design leakage, and allowed a portion of the radioactive material to bypass the HEPA filters were sealed with a high density foaming material. [...]
- 03/08/2014 — Unplanned, excessive exothermic reaction** occurred during foaming. Foaming was secured. Emergency response personnel called to the scene. [...]
- The Board had other concerns with the quality of [...] responses related to a potential exothermic reaction due to a foaming process upset that could result in a fire and subsequent failure of contaminated HEPA filters in the U/G ventilation system due to the fire soot combined with the observed particulate loading on the Mod filters, and this event was not considered in response to Question 5 regarding creating the possibility of an accident of a different type than previously analyzed. Although the safety basis includes a fire involving the Waste Handling Building contaminated HEPA filters [...] these hazard scenarios were not addressed as bounding or representative for a fire release from the U/G HEPA filters. An unplanned exothermic accident that could have led to a fire occurred on March 8, 2014, when “reddish-brown” vapors were observed coming from the open ports in the duct [...]
Radiological Release Event at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant on February 14, 2014 — Phase 1, Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management, April 2014:
- At 2250, security reported to the CMR [Central Monitoring Room] that they had observed “green burst” and heard arcing noises at the utility substation. The acting Facility Shift Manager (FSM) responded to the east fence line and heard a “popping noise” from the alternate B feed lines but did not observe any glow. He instructed the Central Monitoring Room Operator (CMRO) to contact Xcel Energy and inform them of the situation. At 2310, the CMRO called Xcel Energy which reported all normal indications on the WIPP utility yard. All Central Monitoring System (CMS) indications were normal at this time and there was no indication of seismic or other unusual activity. The response to the green burst and noise placed the acting FSM in the field near the ventilation system at the time of the accident.
- On February 14, 2014, at 2313, a “HI RAD” alarm from CAM-151 (U/G, monitoring the Panel 7 exhaust drift) was received on the CMS. The “HI RAD” setpoint for this CAM is 30 Derived Air Concentration (DAC) for alpha and beta contamination. Approximately one minute later, a “HI-HI RAD” alarm from CAM-151was received on the CMS. The “HI-HI RAD” setpoint is 50 DAC. The CMS indicated that the CAM reading was 332 DAC. Figure 7 provides a graphical representation of CAM readings during the event.[…] At 2342, the CMRO disabled CAM-151 due to a malfunction indication.
Table 1: Chronology of the Radiological Release — 2/14/2014
- 22:50 – Security reported “green burst” and arcing noise at the utility yard
- 22:52 – FSM investigated, saw no lights but heard clicking and had CMRO notify Xcel
- 23:10 – Xcel Energy reported to CMRO normal indications on WIPP utility yard
- 23:13 – “HI RAD” alarm received in CMR on the CMS from CAM-151 in U/G at Panel 7
Carlsbad Current-Argus, Apr. 24, 2014: Investigators found that two roof bolts were broken near the center of the ceiling directly above the transuranic waste stored in Panel 7 of the nuclear waste disposal site [...] The investigation team also found that two broken and loose roof bolts had fallen on top of waste in the room, as well as cracks in the rib of the salt mine wall. Despite the evidence signaling a potential problem with the ceiling, investigators “did not see any debris on the floor,” nor evidence of any roof collapse according to Tammy Reynolds, the deputy recovery manager [...]
KRQE, Apr. 24, 2014: This is a photo of the actual leak area from February just before the contamination escaped. There was loose roof bolt spotted so one theory is a falling bolt may have punctured a container, or perhaps something else caused a container to burst.
Radiological Release Event at WIPP, Department of Energy, Apr. 2014: The Board presumes either the penetration of a waste container or multiple containers by a roof bolt, or partial collapse of the back (roof) and/or ribs (walls) caused the breach and release of contamination. […] February 10 and 12, two broken roof bolts were found near the mid-pillar of Panel 7 by [Nuclear Waste Partnership]. This condition was reported to the Mine Maintenance Engineer. On February 13, members of the Board investigating the salt truck fire were in the [underground] and observed these same roof bolts and reported protruding roof bolts from the back in Panel 7. Figure 6 shows cracks in the rib behind mesh and with rock bolts [and] where possible heaving of the bottom has taken place under the second stack [...]
Dr. David Snow PhD, Engineering Science University of California-Berkeley, 2002: Unsafe Radwaste Disposal at WIPP: [...] The 13-ft. high by 33-ft. wide rooms will be short-lived. Large open fractures appear in the ceilings of all rooms within months of mining. Several roof-falls and floor heaves have already occurred, so an extensive array of roof bolts has been installed to delay the failure [...] These, and all future rooms will suffer collapse of major roof slabs bounded above by weak clay-bed partings. Such falls will crush the drums, and liberated waste [...]
AP, Apr. 23, 2014: Board chairman Ted Wyka previewed the [Department of Energy's Accident Investigation Board report] findings at a community meeting Wednesday […] Shortcomings were found at almost every step, from a more than 10-hour response to the initial emergency alarm to a bypass in the filtration system that allowed the radiation to escape above ground. “The bottom line is they failed to believe initial indications of the release,” Wyka said. […] Crews are still working to identify the source of the leak, which sent low levels of radiation into the air around the plant, but officials believe it occurred in the area where toxic waste was last being handled. Officials Wednesday night said there were people working in that area at the time of the fire, but did not say what they were doing.
Wall St. Journal, Apr. 23, 2014: A separate problem surfaced during the Feb. 14 radiation accident: The containment system leaked, allowing some radiation to escape from underground. The plant hadn’t experienced a radiation accident previously, and site-maintenance procedures didn’t require that the containment system be tested for leakage, Energy Department officials said. […] While a radiation-containment system was installed, it didn’t have the “safety pedigree that we would want.” Such a radiation accident at the site “wasn’t supposed to happen for 10,000 years,” said Geoffrey Fettus, a senior attorney at environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council and a former New Mexico state assistant attorney general who worked on issues related to the plant.
Ted Wyka, chairman of Department of Energy’s Accident Investigation Board, Apr. 23, 2014 (at 1:04:00 in): HEPA filter bypass dampers, they represent a pathway — and they did — of unfiltered exhaust to the environment. […] They have an unacceptable design leakage for a containment boundary. That bypass dampers around the HEPA filters, which operated with the efficiency that you would expect… design leakage reduces the overall efficiency of the HEPA filter system, and was the source of the release on Feb. 14, that bypass around the HEPA filters.
and from before.......