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ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The truck that caught fire a half mile underground at a southeastern New Mexico nuclear waste dump was 29 years old, improperly maintained and operating without an automatic fire-suppression system, according to a report to be released Friday.
The report also will detail deficiencies in emergency training and responses at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad.
“It was preventable,” Ted Wyka, a Department of Energy official who led the investigation, told a community meeting on Thursday evening as he previewed the findings of the probe into the first of two back-to-back incidents at the federal government’s only permanent repository for waste from the nation’s nuclear bomb-building facilities.
An investigation of a radiation release nine days later that contaminated 17 workers is expected in a few weeks.
The report was previewed just hours after the contractor that runs the site confirmed it had demoted WIPP President Farok Sharif.
Wyka said the investigation of the truck fire did not reveal exactly what sparked the blaze, but he said the old truck that was hauling salt had a buildup of oil and other combustible materials as well as active leaks.
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