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Report: Radiation in bunker 7 times above normal

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September 15, 2013 04:22 PM EST | AP


EL PASO, Texas — A contaminated bunker discovered at a West Texas military post had nearly seven times more than the level of accepted radiation, according to a military report obtained by a newspaper.

The bunker at the Biggs Army Airfield at Fort Bliss in El Paso was examined by inspectors in June. Army officials revealed shortly afterward that they found radioactivity in a bunker on the military post, but said there was no risk to those who worked in the bunker during the 1950s and 1960s.

Nuclear weapons were assembled and stored in the facility that previously belonged to the Air Force.

University of Texas at El Paso expert John Walton told the El Paso Times (http://bit.ly/18jKfEm) that the amount of contamination was "not huge, but the danger from radiation depends on how long you've been exposed to it."

Walton says workers in the bunker may have inhaled or swallowed contaminated paint chips, which would have led to a "very small and limited exposure of soldiers" over a half-century.

He also downplayed concerns that the uranium may have seeped into groundwater.

"Generally, it takes thousands of years for uranium to reach the groundwater given the depth of groundwater in this part of El Paso," Walton said. "In the desert, windblown dust can be a greater problem."

A retired airman contacted officials earlier this year about sealed containers with radioactive residues that were placed near the bunker.

The bunker was being used to store rifles and other weapons for training soldiers for the last decade until the discovery of the chemicals.

Fort Bliss stretches across 1,700 square miles, more than any other military installation in the country.

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Information from: El Paso Times, http://www.elpasotimes.com