The Latest: Nevada disposal site fire put out, highway open

AP News
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Posted: Oct 19, 2015 9:50 PM

BEATTY, Nev. (AP) — The latest on a fire at a closed radioactive waste disposal site in Nevada (all times local):

6:50 p.m.

Sheriff's officials say a fire was extinguished at a closed radioactive waste site and a 140-mile stretch of a major Nevada highway has re-opened.

Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly says in a statement that U.S. 95, a key north-south highway past the site, was opened again to traffic Monday evening after air quality testing found no contamination.

Several other traffic routes were still closed. Wehrly says Highway 267 to Scotty's Castle and Death Valley had suffered road damage.

A contractor, US Ecology, operates a hazardous waste facility at the site about 115 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Heavy rains swept through the area Sunday, and a US Ecology spokesman says a site manager noticed the fire about 1 p.m.

Wehrly says there was no sign of any smoldering or flames Monday evening.

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3:40 p.m.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is sending a radiological emergency team to look for contamination in and around the site of a fire in a trench where low-level radioactive waste was buried some two decades ago.

EPA spokesman Rusty Harris-Bishop says no dangerous gamma radiation has been detected in the area around the state-owned property off U.S. 95 about 10 miles south of Beatty, Nevada.

A contractor, US Ecology, operates a hazardous waste facility at the site about 115 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Heavy rains swept through the area Sunday, and a US Ecology spokesman says a site manager noticed the fire about 1 p.m.

The sheriff in surrounding Nye County says the fire was reported a little after 2:30 p.m.

No injuries have been reported.

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2:22 p.m.

A sheriff in rural Nevada says radioactive contamination hasn't been detected in air around the site of a fire at a closed radioactive waste disposal facility northwest of Las Vegas.

A statement issued by Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly says ground testing is still being performed and U.S. 95 at the site remains closed.

The highway is a key route between Las Vegas and Reno.

The fire erupted Sunday during heavy rain around the site that accepted low-level radioactive waste for 30 years before closing in 1992.

The blaze was reported by US Ecology, a firm that operates an adjacent commercial hazardous materials disposal facility for items including toxic polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

The company says the fire was at a site controlled by the state's Department of Health and Human Services.

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12:30 p.m.

Radiation detection aircraft are flying over the site of a fire at a closed radioactive waste disposal facility northwest of Las Vegas. Four Nevada National Guard hazardous materials detection team members are on site.

Nevada National Security Site spokesman Darwin Morgan said Monday that the government contractor provided a twin-engine fixed-wing airplane and a helicopter for fly-overs near the town of Beatty in Nye County.

Nevada Guard Maj. Mickey Kirschenbaum says the hazardous detection unit arrived Monday from Carson City.

Officials say the fire is out at the disposal site that accepted low-level radioactive waste for 30 years before closing in 1992.

The fire was reported by US Ecology.

The company says the fire was at a site controlled by the state's Department of Health and Human Services.

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11:30 a.m.

Officials say a fire is out at a closed radioactive waste site in Nevada, and law enforcement and state agencies are descending on the rural area to test air quality and check for any other problems.

It's still unknown how the fire started Sunday in the rural facility in Beatty, about 8 miles from populated areas.

The site had accepted low-level radioactive waste for 30 years before closing in 1992.

Members of the Nevada National Guard's hazardous detection unit are traveling to the site from Carson City with equipment that can detect radiation levels.

US Ecology said no evacuations have been ordered.

The fire was reported by US Ecology, which now operates a neighboring facility. The site where the fire started is now under the control of the state's Department of Health and Human Services.

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Compiled by Associated Press writers Sally Ho and Ken Ritter.