Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, published Apr. 9, 2014 (at 3:00 in):
- Sen. Tom Udall, New Mexico: I appreciate that many in your agency have made it clear that the radioactive releases from WIPP have been at levels that are a public health danger and I’m hopeful that you’re monitoring and verification will continue to support their unfortunately the facts are the two accidents have happened to WIPP that we’re not supposed to happen — a fire in a mine and a radiological release. DOE oversight has already been found to be lacking and that’s why it’s important to the community that an independent public health agency like EPA be on the ground overseeing the recovery phase to ensure public health is protected. […]
- Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator: EPA’s main job in this is to ensure that we’re looking at any level that could have been exceeded in terms of protectiveness to the outside, so that the surrounding communities are aware of any concerns […] So far, it looks like any release has been far below any levels that are necessary for protection […] We know people have concerns, this is a big deal.
While checking if there were any other reports on this topic, a website Mining Awareness Plus was found. Here’s an excerpt from a recent post (emphasis added): Now we imagine that [Sen. Udall] didn’t mean to say that. But, he spoke the truth whether he knew it or not. The WIPP released plutonium and americium, which are long-lived alpha emitters, which can stay in the body for a lifetime. They thus bioaccumulate upon inhalation and ingestion, and even absorption. That is the hidden, dirty, secret. […] The BEIR VII report is well-known for its Linear No-Threshold Model (LNT), i.e. no safe dose: “the risk of cancer proceeds in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and that the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans.” However, BEIR only “focuses on the health effects of low levels of low linear energy transfer (low-LET) ionizing radiation such as x-rays and gamma rays.” And, as pointed out “Most radiation sources have a mixture of high- and low-LET radiation. Compared to high-LET radiation [Alpha radiation is high LET; beta and gamma radiation are low LET], low-LET radiation deposits less energy in the cell along the radiation path and is considered less destructive per radiation track.”