(CARSLBAD, N.M.) -- A fire at a nuclear waste repository in New Mexico Wednesday prompted evacuations and raised fears that radioactive waste could have been impacted. The blaze broke out at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M., around 11 a.m. after a truck hauling salt caught fire.
"It's a dump truck [that] carries salt from where it's mined out to create a void space. It's carried over to a shaft where it's brought out from the underground and it was in that area, far away from where the waste and placement operations are, where this fire occurred," Roger Nelson, the chief scientist at the facility, told ABC News Radio. Powered ventilation to the underground was suspended and dozens of employees were evacuated as a result. "All 50 were...brought to the surface and accounted for -- that took less than an hour to accomplish that. Six of them reported indications of smoke inhalation," Nelson said.
After hours of waiting for the air to clear, a mine rescue team was able to go underground Wednesday night and confirm that the fire was out and the air was safe to breath. Officials later confirmed that the flames never reached any of the nuclear materials.
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