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Fire prompts evacuation at WIPP

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By Associated Press

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Emergency crews battled a fire Wednesday at the southeastern New Mexico site where the federal government seals away its low-grade nuclear waste, including plutonium-contaminated clothing and tools.

Six people were treated for smoke inhalation and released a short while later after a truck hauling salt caught fire at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

All employees were evacuated from the underground site after the fire broke out about 11 a.m. Wednesday, and none of the radioactive waste was affected, plant officials said.

Authorities said they weren't sure what caused the blaze.

At an afternoon news conference, officials said the fire occurred on a truck in the facility's north mine, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported. Nuclear waste is stored in the south mine, officials said.

Fire suppression systems and rescue teams were immediately activated, and all waste handling operations were suspended, officials said.


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