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WIPP Accident Investigation Board Report

Department of Energy (DOE) Issues Accident Investigation Board (AIB) Report on February 14 Incident at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico

June 30, 2014
Drums at Los Alamos containing nitrate salt waste

Drums at Los Alamos containing nitrate salt waste were placed inside steel standard waste boxes, which were then secured inside a steel and glass structure in a dome that has temperature control and fire suppression systems.


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On April 16, 2015, the Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (EM) released the Accident Investigation Board (AIB) Phase II Report related to the Feb. 14, 2014, radiological event at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico.

The AIB completed an exhaustive investigation at WIPP and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to examine the cause of the radiological release at WIPP and identify managerial controls and safety measures necessary to prevent or minimize the probability or severity of a recurrence of this type of accident.

Based on post-event chemical, radiological, and fire forensic analyses, the AIB concluded that the release was caused by an exothermic reaction involving the mixture of organic materials and nitrate salts in one drum that was processed at LANL in December 2013. The AIB’s findings identify shortcomings within both contractor and federal processes at LANL, WIPP, EM, and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

This report follows the AIB’s Phase I Report, which focused on the immediate response to the radiological event. The AIB also conducted a separate investigation into the February 5, 2014, truck fire in the underground portion of the WIPP facility.

To read the full report and obtain additional information, visit the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management (EM) EM’s website.

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