Kitty Litter to Blame for $240 Million Radioactive Leak

TIME

Last February, a radiation accident occurred at the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico. A drum containing radioisotopes like plutonium was improperly packaged at the Los Alamos National Laboratory near Santa Fe and ruptured, causing a leak.

The incident exposed 22 workers to radiation levels “not expected to threaten their health,” according to the contractor that operates the plant. In September, Energy Department officials estimated the cost of the initial recovery of the dump at $240,000,000 and said it might be two or more years before it’s fully operational again.

Investigators have now found the cause of the entire issue: The barrel was packaged with “chemically incompatible” contents – in particular, a brand of cat litter (used to absorb liquids) that caused a chemical reaction and created gases that resulted in the canister’s lid becoming dislodged.

A team of federal inspectors released a report last…

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