Department of Energy crews have completed two days of training hospital personnel to deal with victims of radiation exposure.
The agency said the training was in preparation for "the unlikely event" of accidental exposure to radioactivity resulting from waste shipments from the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M.High-level nuclear waste is scheduled to be stored in underground salt caverns at WIPP. The federal facility is scheduled to open in late July for a five-year experimental program.
WIPP Project Office Manager Arlen Hunt said the training was for emergency room personnel along I-84 in Utah and I-15 in Idaho. Hospital workers were updated on material to be shipped to WIPP and the appropriate medical response in case of emergency situations. The sessions were held in Pocatello and Ogden.
Transuranic waste, generated from U.S. nuclear weapons plants, will be trucked in special containers through Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado at the rate of about one per month.
The waste will consist of such items as discarded clothing, shoe covers, rags, glassware, tools and other items contaminated by radioactive material.
"This training is being provided by recognized experts in radiological treatment and emphasizes our commitment to public health and safety," Hunt said. "We don't anticipate ever having a release of radioactivity even if a shipment is involved in an accident, but preparation for such an event is a necessity."
The Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site training sessions first were conducted in Utah and Idaho in 1989. In addition, training for emergency responders, those who arrive first at the scene of an accident, was first provided to Utah and Idaho in 1988. The DOE has held the courses since then, with the exception of Utah, which requested that training be discontinued until the WIPP plant was closer to receiving the first waste shipment.