ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —Federal officials Thursday confirmed a leak of nuclear waste at a southeastern New Mexico repository, but it could be weeks before workers can safely access the underground dump to determine what happened.

The release of radiation from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant poses no public health threat, officials emphasized, but the state environment secretary said he was concerned with the lag in getting information about the incident.

The DOE on Saturday announced that it had shuttered operations in response to an underground radiation sensor. But it wasn’t until Wednesday night that DOE confirmed that radiation had also been released above ground, about a half mile from the plant.

And it wasn’t until a Thursday news conference that Jose Franco, manager of the DOE’s Carlsbad Field Office, confirmed publicly that readings from the monitors matched materials from the waste that is stored there, indicating a leak.

Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn said he traveled to Carlsbad as soon as he was told Wednesday night that radiation had been picked up by an above ground air sensor.

“We are wondering why it took a couple of days to confirm the radiological event outside of the underground,” he said. “We will demand that federal officials share information with the public in real time. That’s the reason we are here.”

Franco said it was the first such incident since WIPP opened 15 years ago.