Restart of fan needed for worker safety at nuclear repository

Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant reported a “minimal” release of radioactive materials during a test of a ventilation fan and contended the fan could be used safely during maintenance operations at the nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad.

The fan was decommissioned after an accidental radiological release in 2014 led to contamination of parts of the underground where waste is disposed of, and a three-year halt of WIPP’s primary operations.

Restarting the fan was needed, officials said, to increase safety for workers by improving airflow to the underground.

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A four-hour test of the fan was conducted in January, and Sean Dunagan, president of Nuclear Waste Partnership – the primary operations contractor at WIPP – said the results showed any radiological risk from using the fan was negligible.