After a month long investigation by the U.S. Department of Energy, a fire reported at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico was deemed the result of dated equipment as well as improper equipment monitoring. The fire was sparked by a truck that became inflamed at the nuclear waste dump, and was revealed to have been ablaze for more than 30 minutes before workers attempted to extinguish it.
The truck that caught on fire was discovered to have been 29 years old, and was running without an automatic fire suppression system that could've helped safely put out the burning. Investigators still are not clear what exactly caused the fire, but reports say the truck was carrying salt on board, and appeared to have a number of active leaks and oil buildup.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is the only underground nuclear waste repository in the United States, and primarily serves as a program designed to get rid of waste left behind from federal labs where nuclear bomb testings occurred. Nine days after the fire, news formed of a radiation leak at the WIPP that contaminated 17 employees. There has been no word on whether the radiation and fire are connected.
The Department of Energy Accident Investigation team urged WIPP employees to conduct more efficient daily vehicle inspections and equipment monitoring to ensure another fire or accident will not occur again. The DOE was also unsatisfied with the emergency response time of workers, as well as with the lack of a proper fire suppression system installed in the truck. In response to the inadequate safety procedures on the site, Farok Sharif stepped down as President and Project Manager of the Nuclear Waste Partnership, being replaced by Bob McQuinn.
Taking the necessary precautions to effectively monitor equipment is essential for practicing standard safety procedures. Avoid accidents by taking the time to properly inspect all appliances ranging from pipelines to bulldozers.