February 14, 2014

On February 14, 2014, at approximately 2314 Mountain Standard Time, there was a release of radioactive material in the underground repository at the Department of Energy (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico. This resulted in the release of americium and plutonium from one or more transuranic (TRU) waste containers into the environment. The release was detected by an underground continuous air monitor and an alarm activated on the Central Monitoring System in the Central Monitoring Room on the WIPP surface. This initiated a shift to filtration of the underground ventilation which was then directed through high-efficiency particulate air filter banks located in the surface exhaust building. 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.

Due to restricted access to the underground for a period of time following the radiological release, examination of the area and containers was not possible and the investigation was broken down into two phases. Phase 1 Radiological Release Event at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant on February 14, 2014 report covers the Board’s conclusions for the release of TRU from the underground to the environment and the response to the incident by the WIPP personnel. The second part of the investigation was initiated when access to the underground was reinstated and Phase 2 Radiological Release Event at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, February 14, 2014 is focused on the mechanism(s) of release of the radioactive material from a transuranic (TRU) waste container emplaced in Panel 7 Room 7 of the underground. Inspections of the mine on April 30, 2014, established that fire behaviors might have been associated with the radiological release event. Because of this, the Accident Investigation Board established a Fire Forensic Analysis Team. The results of the fire forensic analysis are documented in the Fire Forensic Analysis of the Radiological Release Event at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant on February 14, 2014.