ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Thirteen workers at the nation's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico have tested positive for radiation exposure after a recent leak released toxic particles in and around the plant, officials announced.
The U.S. Department of Energy and the contractor that runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Project declined to comment further on the preliminary test results announced Wednesday, saying they'll discuss the issue at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
"It is important to note that these are initial sample results," the DOE and Nuclear Waste Partnership, the plant operator, said in a joint statement. "These employees, both federal and contractor, will be asked to provide additional samples in order to fully determine the extent of any exposure."
All employees who were working at the southeastern New Mexico plant when the leak occurred late Feb. 14 were checked for contamination before being allowed to leave, the news release said. But biological samples were also taken to check for possible exposure from inhaling radioactive particles.
Elevated radiation levels have been detected in the air around the plant, but officials have said the readings are too low to constitute a public health threat.