HOUSTON, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- Elevated amounts of airborne radiation was detected Monday in and around an underground nuclear waste repository in New Mexico, according to U.S. media reports.
The results of the new monitoring data show slightly elevated levels of airborne radiation in and around the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico, local newspaper quoted officials with the U.S. Energy Department as saying.
Officials said the results were from samples collected last week at numerous air monitoring stations at the facility and in the surrounding area. At the same time, officials were reassuring the public that the leak poses no threat to public health.
The leak was confirmed Thursday by the Energy Department, though it occurred nearly a week ago on Feb. 14. The underground dump was shut down that night after an air sensor detected unusually high levels of radioactive particles on its underground levels. No workers were underground at the time and no injuries or damage have been reported.
Officials said the radiation was believed to be confined at the underground levels and no contamination was detected on surface levels, but an independent monitor center said several days later it found radioactive isotopes in an air sensor a half mile (600 meters) from the site.
State and federal authorities followed up on the monitoring and confirmed the saying. The Energy Department then sent a team to investigate.
The cause of the leak remains unknown. A truck fire was reported at the underground site on Feb. 5 and prompted evacuations, but officials said the fire was in a different part of the site and did not seem related to the leak.
The plant stores "transuranic waste" leftover from nuclear weapons research and testing from the nation's past defense activities, according to the Energy Department website. The waste includes clothing, tools, rags and other debris contaminated with radioactive elements, largely plutonium.