If you’ve got a Facebook account you might have seen an article that’s gone viral stating New Mexico and Texas residents need to evacuate due to a radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant located outside of Carlsbad. We’ve received a few inquiries on this, and while we normally stay away from controversial topics, we felt like this one needed to be addressed. Social media is a great way to stay in touch, but with one click it’s easy to “share” false information. If we had been ordered to evacuate we would have done so on February 14th, a month and a half ago. Guess we’re a little late!
“The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is the nation’s only repository for the disposal of nuclear waste known as transuranic, or TRU, waste. It consists of clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris, soil and other items contaminated with small amounts of plutonium and other man-made radioactive elements. Disposal of transuranic waste is critical to the cleanup of Cold War nuclear production sites. Waste from DOE sites around the country is sent to WIPP for permanent disposal.” (1) Geographically, WIPP is located 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, and about 100 miles from Burnt Well.
The article that’s gone viral was correct in reporting that the leak happened on February 14th. That’s about where it’s accuracy stops. The levels of radiation and the area exposed to it are grossly over exaggerated. Multiple reports conducted by the Department of Energy and independent researchers show that the exposure above ground was very low, and the area of possible exposure was less than a mile. While no level of radiation exposure is good, the fact is, regardless of where we live we are exposed to low levels everyday. It occurs naturally in the atmosphere, we are exposed to it on airplanes, during x-rays, and when we use our technological devices.
We take the leak at WIPP seriously, because we live here. I am not a math or chemistry person, and my eyes have gone cross-eyed from reading so many reports, but it’s important to do your own reading, and not rely on Internet articles with an agenda. I still don’t grasp it all scientifically, but I do feel confident that we are not in any more danger than you are, sitting on the other side of this computer screen (Radiation alert!). Honestly, I think the digestion of our Mexican food produces more harmful chemical exposure, if you catch my drift.
I’ve included links to articles that you can read if you want more information. The Carlsbad Current Argus has several more articles on their website.