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Drum beat: Missing tag, mistaken assumptions may have caused problem container to go awry

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By Roger Snodgrass

Investigators are beginning to unravel the story behind the 55-gallon barrel that recently had to be plucked from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and returned to Los Alamos National Laboratory for corrections.

The New Mexico Environment Department announced at the time that the disposal had been “improper” and related to “prohibitions on liquids.”

LANL officials acknowledged that a mistake was made and a drum containing radioactive waste was shipped to the Department of Energy’s WIPP site near Carlsbad, N.M., that should not have been sent.

LANL is awaiting ongoing investigations before commenting further, said LANL spokesperson Kevin Roark shortly after the problem was made public.

Several investigations are now in process. A preliminary report was released June 13 by David Moody, manager of the Carlsbad Field Office in charge of WIPP.

The report discusses why the drum got all the way into the underground repository before it was discovered and how the error was uncovered.

The drum was originally X-rayed in April 2004, when no deficiencies were found, according to background summary in the report. A year later, it was pulled for visual inspection, under provisions of the permit then under effect, which called for an additional examination of a certain percentage of the drums.


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