ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A radiation release from the federal government's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico was the result of a slow erosion of the safety culture at the 15-year-old site, which was evident in the bungled response to the emergency, federal investigators said in a report released Thursday.
The report from the U.S. Department of Energy's Accident Investigation Board cited poor management, ineffective maintenance and a lack of proper training and oversight at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad. The report also found that much of the operation failed to meet standards for a nuclear facility.
The series of shortcomings are similar to those found in a probe of the truck fire in the half-mile-deep mine just nine days before the Feb. 14 radiation release that shuttered the plant indefinitely.
Given the latest findings, watchdog Don Hancock said the leak that contaminated 21 workers with low doses of radiation in mid-February was a "best-case scenario."
"Everything conspired for the least bad event to occur, based on what we know — and there is a still a lot we don't know," he said.