Human Role at WIPP was being Minimized
By James Moore, Retired Engineer
Albuquerque Journal, excerpts
PUBLISHED: Friday, February 27, 2015 at 12:02 am
I found Mark Oswald’s article, “WIPP woes due to wrong word?” on the Journal’s front page of Feb. 10 quite interesting.
Unfortunately, I fear it may leave your typical reader inappropriately relieved that we finally have a perfectly reasonable explanation for the radioactive release which occurred at WIPP approximately one year ago. The article did not address the very important follow-up questions that the Los Alamos explanation should generate.
The article was informative on the Los Alamos National Laboratories admitted “mistake,” which ultimately led to the radioactive release incident that occurred at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M., approximately one year ago. In the article, the “incident” was reportedly caused when a low level “note taker” failed to recognize the technical difference between the words “inorganic” verses “an organic” absorbent.
Now, the important questions are: (1) How many such “bombs” were constructed and placed into WIPP since August 2012; (2) How can they be safely approached and made safe; and lastly, the most important question, (3) What was the WIPP hazard assessment’s estimated probability of such a perfectly reasonable “human error” leading to a release of radioactivity from WIPP during the next 10,000 years plus?
Now, we see that the cost of recovery from the Los Alamos mistake is estimated at over $500 million and three more years by the Department of Energy. This is the cost of minimizing and ignoring “human behavior issues” because they make it impossible to achieve the desired safety numbers. It would cost less to acknowledge, identify and manage these potential “human error” issues. Doing so would also make the project safer.
James Moore is a retired engineer who lives in Albuquerque.
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