Federal officials say three firefighters got a small amount of radioactive material on their skin and were taken to medical facilities as a precaution after a barrel containing radioactive sludge ruptured at an Idaho Nuclear site, the AP reports. The US Department of Energy said Thursday that the 55-gallon barrel ruptured late Wednesday at the 890-square-mile site that includes the Idaho National Laboratory. The firefighters who responded to the fire alarm triggered by the rupture extinguished the smoldering barrel and moved it away from a dozen others nearby. They got some radioactive contamination on their skin, but emergency workers washed it away. The incident took place at a containment structure at the Idaho Cleanup Project's Radioactive Waste Management Complex, where radioactive waste from around the country was buried for decades.
Workers have been digging up the waste at the isolated desert site for shipment to a storage facility in New Mexico. Energy Department spokeswoman Danielle Miller says the firefighters did not inhale any of the radioactive material. She says no contamination has been detected outside of the building where the rupture occurred, and officials say there is no risk to the public. This is the first known rupture of a barrel containing radioactive sludge at the site, but federal officials say it might not be the last. That's because secretive record keeping during the Cold War makes it hard for officials to now know the exact contents of similar barrels. Experts say more barrels might contain a rupture-inducing mix of radioactive and other materials. The barrels are from nuclear weapons production at the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, Colorado.
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