HOUSTON, July 23 (Xinhua) -- A lead-laden glove left in a waste container might have triggered a chemical reaction and led to February's radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico, local media reported Wednesday.
The New Mexican said Nan Sauer, an official with leading nuclear weapons manufacturer Los Alamos National Laboratory, revealed the new information had come to light during an internal investigation.
Underground nuclear waste repository WIPP in Carlsbad has been shut down since Feb. 14. Investigators have been working since to discover the cause of the leak.
A prior leading theory had been that a change of kitty litter, used to absorb moisture in nuclear waste, caused a chemical reaction inside a container.
Officials have so far been tight-lipped about the anticipated cost of rehabilitating WIPP following the shutdown, but have previously said it could take the federal government two years or more to seal off the underground rooms, while full resumption of operations could take up to three years.
WIPP stores transuranic waste left over from nuclear weapons research and testing from the nation's past defense activities. Such waste materials include clothing, tools, rags and other debris contaminated with radioactive elements, largely plutonium.