Mexicans concerned, anxious about WIPP radiation release

City of 2.5 million nearly 200 miles away "within transnational evacuation zone in event of a nuclear disaster" — Local officials meeting with U.S. gov’t — Whistleblower: If plutonium released "surrounding population should take precautions"

March 26th, 2014

By ENENews – Energy News

U.S. Radiation Leak Concerns Mexicans, by Kent Paterson, Editor of Frontera NorteSur and Curriculum Developer with the project of the Center for Latin American and Border Studies at New Mexico State University (NMSU), Mar. 24, 2014: Serious problems at a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico have caught the eyes of the press and government officials in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico [Population: 2.5 million]. […] Since February 14, additional radiation releases [from WIPP] connected to the original one have been reported, even as more workers are still awaiting test results for possible radiation exposure during the first event. Although Ciudad Juarez is located nearly 200 miles from WIPP, city officials expect to meet with U.S. government representatives on March 26 or 27 to discuss ongoing issues from the February 14 incident. A story in El Diario newspaper said that Ciudad Juarez (and neighboring El Paso and Las Cruces) were well within a transnational evacuation zone in the event of a nuclear disaster. While WIPP spokespersons say that the radiation releases have been minimal and pose no danger to public health, Mexican officials are anxious to hear the message in person. […] Despite U.S. and Mexican government reports of little or no radioactive contamination from the WIPP leak, public doubts about the gravity of the February 14 incident persist due to incomplete contaminant data reporting, the slowness in getting all the potentially exposed workers tested and informed, spotty or contradictory statements by regulatory officials, and uncertainties over the origin of the radiation leak and how far an area it has impacted. […] Back in the 1990s, Ciudad Juarez and U.S. environmentalists from the Rio Bravo Ecological Alliance took a stand against WIPP based partly on concerns that the underground storage facility would eventually contaminate the Pecos River Basin and the Rio Grande.

Alejandro Gloria, chief of Ciudad Juarez’s municipal ecology department: "Everything is fine. There are no plutonium or strange particulates that have been detected inside the filters." […] the WIPP crisis could lead to a review of nuclear safeguards in the greater border region [ant they are] looking at geologic stability and the possible effects of the WIPP site on groundwater as issues that could be reexamined by the Mexican Congress and Chihuahua State Legislature.

Fernando Motta Allen, director of Ciudad Juarez’s civil protection department (emphasis added): "Next week, people from the EPA and the U.S. DOE are going to come with first-hand information to guarantee that no risks exist." […] Ciudad Juarez has two radiation detection devices, but […] the city had no specialists to operate them […] the equipment is easy to use and comes with a complete instruction manual.

Mexican whistle-blower Bernardo Salas Mar, a former employee of the Laguna Verde nuclear power plant in Veracruz: Important bits of information need to be confirmed about the WIPP radiation release like the wind patterns at the time of the incident and the possible geographic scope of the spread of contaminants. "The answer to these questions will lend knowledge to the damage that could have been caused […] After (radiation) ingestion or incorporation into the human organism, 10 or 15 years or more pass before the appearance of some kind of cancer. [If plutonium and americium were indeed released into the larger environment] the surrounding population should take precautions in order to avoid exposure to these contaminants."

Dr. Mariana Chew, environmental engineer: A cross-border, information-credibility gap existed with regards to WIPP. "The same thing always happens. It happened with Asarco (ex-El Paso smelter) and other environmental disasters that weren’t made known to the public […] Given the history, this radiation shouldn’t be taken lightly. Whenever something happens, that’s when you hear about it."

See also: Official: Radioactive material escaping everyday from WIPP and dispersing — Top officials "not made available for comment" — Expert: Leaks from ‘unfiltered’ ducts went on for weeks

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