Mission

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

Our mission is to protect all living beings and the environment from the effects of radioactive and other hazardous materials now and in the future.

P.O. Box 31147
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87594

Telephone: (505) 986-1973
Fax: (505) 986-0997
Email: ccns@nuclearactive.org

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Current Activities

GAO: DOE Did Not Learn Lessons from Previous CMRR Cost Estimates

Changes to accommodate higher levels of plutonium at LANL's  Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building are part of plans to replace the lab's 1952 plutonium facility. (COURTESY LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY) moswald@abqjournal.com Thu Aug 11 15:29:07 -0600 2016 1470950947 FILENAME: 216708.jpg

play3A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report reveals that the Department of Energy (DOE), and its semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration, did not learn the lessons about providing accurate cost estimates for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-585  In 2005, the federal agencies estimated the CMRR Project to cost $975 million, with a completion date of 2017.  http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf, p. 3.  Yet recent estimates indicate that design, construction and equipment for the Radiological Laboratory, Office and Utility Building (RLUOB) and the proposed Wal-Mart sized Nuclear Facility would have cost approximately $7 billion, $1 billion more than previously disclosed.  http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf, p. 27.

The report was submitted to the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services on August 9, 2016, the 71st commemoration of the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki, Japan.

DOE built the RLUOB at a cost of about $400 million and in 2014, began operations.  In August 2014, DOE canceled plans to construct the Nuclear Facility because of the cost increases, including the growing knowledge of the seismic dangers on the Pajarito Plateau, where LANL is located.  Robert H. Gilkeson, an independent registered geologist, worked for years to bring attention to the seismic issues.  For example, see the Gilkeson and CCNS November 9, 2011 report, Deficiencies in Knowledge of Seismic Hazard for Proposed $6 Billion Chemistry & Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at Los Alamos National Laboratory Need for Field Studies and a New Environmental Impact Statement, with four detailed figuresf CMRR Seismic FS 11-09-11.  An estimated $500 million would be needed to make the seismic design changes.  http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf p. 4, footnote 9.

LANL is the only facility in the DOE’s nuclear weapons complex for manufacture of plutonium pits, or triggers, for nuclear weapons at the Plutonium Facility, or PF-4.  As part of the “modernization” of the nuclear weapons complex and at the direction of the Department of Defense and itself, DOE is charged with manufacturing 50 to 80 pits per year by 2030.  http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf, p. 2, footnote 6.

After the Nuclear Facility was canceled, DOE adopted a new plutonium strategy, called the “Revised CMRR Project,” to use PF-4 and the RLUOB for pit production.  http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf, beginning on p. 4.

The GAO report discloses that, “[DOE] will develop the capability to produce at Los Alamos an increasing number of new pits over time.  These pits will be of a different type than the pits produced earlier, so Los Alamos has started a development process to establish a pit production capability for a new pit type.”  http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf, p. 10.  In 2013, DOE “developed multiple experimental pits for life extension programs,” a program estimated to cost $13 billion for one warhead, the Interoperable Warhead-1.  http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf, p. 10, footnote 21.  Soon thereafter, LANL “paused pit production and other operations … because of nuclear criticality safety concerns.” http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/678941.pdf, p. 10, footnote 22.

Jay Coghlan, of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, stated, “Expanded plutonium pit production at LANL is not needed to maintain stockpile safety and reliability, but instead is a must for nuclear weaponeers who want to give existing weapons new military capabilities through so-called Life Extension Programs.  This GAO report is more evidence of how taxpayers’ money could be far better spent than on poorly planned, unnecessary and very expensive expanded plutonium pit production.”  http://nukewatch.org/pressreleases/NWNM_Pit_Production_PR-8-10-16.pdf

 

Annihilating Public Participation Ranks No. 1 on the Ground Water Quality Bureau’s “Hit List for Regulation Changes”

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play3Attempting to annihilate public participation in surface and ground water permitting processes, last November, the Ground Water Quality Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department put together a top ten “Hit [L]ist for Regulation Changes” to eviscerate the public’s due process rights.  GWQB HIT LIST FOR REGULATION CHANGES Hit List No. 1 reveals that the Environment Department wants to “figure how to further reduce [public notice and participation requirements] efforts.”

In June, the Department followed up with proposed changes to New Mexico’s water protection standards found in New Mexico Administrative Code Title 20, Chapter 6, Part 2 (20.6.2 NMAC) [https://www.env.nm.gov/gwb/#GWQBnews] that are now out for public review and comment.  Public comments are due to the Environment Department by 5 pm Mountain Daylight Time on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 to NMENV.GWQBrulerev@state.nm.us.  Sample public comments are available at http://www.nuclearactive.org.- Sample Comment Ltr Water Stds 8-12-16

The Hit List was revealed to the public through an Inspection of Public Records request filed by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.  In addition to the Hit List, the Department released internal emails about proposed changes to the list of chemical and organic pollutants; research done to learn about the permit fees charged to polluters in neighboring states, and suggested regulatory language changes.

The New Mexico Water Quality Act requires that if a person wants to discharge a pollutant into water, they must obtain a permit by going through a process requiring public participation and opportunity for a public hearing.  Once issued, permits may be modified and are renewed every five years, both of which require public participation.

The Hit List asks, “Can we make a simple renewal if nothing changes -– just a formal letter indicating such instead of reapplying?”  The Water Quality Act requires public participation.  The Environment Department does not have the authority to issue a formal letter as a substitute for the permit renewal process.

The Environment Department is also proposing a definition for a new process, called a “discharge permit amendment,” that omits public participation processes.   Further, the Water Quality Act does not give the Department the authority to amend a discharge permit, only to modify or renew a permit.

Another Hit List item is about permit variances.  If a polluter cannot meet the water quality standards, they may ask for a variance from the Water Quality Control Commission, a commission created by the Water Quality Act.  The Commission may grant a variance, but not for more than five years.  There are public participation requirements for this process.  The Environment Department’s Hit List reveals that it wants to “remove the [five] year period of approval for variances – make the[m] for the life of the facility upon approval by the Department,” not the Commission.  The proposed changes would allow variances in perpetuity.

Further, the Hit List reveals that the Environment Department proposes to “[r]eview them internally every [five] years.”  A polluter would no longer be required to go before the Commission every five years to renew its variance – something that the Commission discourages.  They want the discharger to meet the water quality protection standards.  Further, the Department omits any criteria for its internal review.

Jon Block, of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, said, “The Law Center shares many other organizations’ concerns over New Mexico’s environment and maintaining robust public participation in environmental decision-making.  NMED appears to be trying to curtail public participation in the decision-making process. We need to work together to oppose such changes to New Mexico ground water and surface water regulations in order to prevent that from happening.”  http://www.nmenvirolaw.org/ and for their analysis, go to: http://nmenvirolaw.org/site/more/cut_public_out_of_water_pollution_decisions

View the New Mexico Environment Department Proposed Revisions to state Surface and Ground Water Protection Regulations here – water_regs_infographic  Public Comments Due August 17, 2016

 

Public Comments due about WIPP and Triassic Park Hazardous Waste Permits

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play3The Hazardous Waste Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department has released documents for public review and comment about the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and the yet-to-be-built Triassic Park Waste Disposal Facility, both located in southeastern New Mexico.  CCNS and our colleagues have prepared sample public comments for you to use and are available at http://nuclearactive.org/.  Simply download, fill in the yellow areas, modify, copy and paste into an email, and hit “send.”

The first document is about the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) proposed modifications to the WIPP permit to update the contingency plan following the truck fire and explosion in February 2014, and reduce the amount of ventilation flow currently required when workers are emplacing waste in the mine.  Public Notice at http://www.wipp.energy.gov/rcradox/rfc/Public_Notice.pdf and Permit Modification Request at https://www.env.nm.gov/wipp/documents/160603.pdf

DOE is proposing to reduce the ventilation flow to below 35,000 standard cubic feet per minute, which is the minimum amount established to protect workers from exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in the waste drums.  DOE says the modification is necessary in order to re-open WIPP by the end of the year.  DOE says they need the “flexibility” to reduce the flow so that they would not have to suspend waste disposal operations if the VOC levels rise above established levels.  Workers then would have to work in personnel protective equipment with respirators once the ventilation flow is reduced.

Comments are due by 5 pm Mountain Daylight Time on Monday, August 8th, 2016.  To download a sample public comment, please go to:  WIPP-Sample-Public-Comment-8-4-16 and email to Ricardo.Maestas@state.nm.us

The second document is a draft permit for the construction and operation of a 35-acre landfill at the Triassic Park Hazardous Waste Facility, located on 480 acres of privately owned land between Roswell and Tatum in Chaves County, south of Highway 380.  Gandy Marley, Inc. is the owner of Triassic Park.  In 2002, they received a hazardous waste permit from the Environment Department for not only the landfill, but for facilities for storage and treatment of waste.  Although the facility was not built, they are now proposing to build a 553,200 cubic yard landfill for U.S. generated waste, waste generated in foreign countries, and waste generated on-site for disposal.  https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/tpperm.htmlbasin3

Following the public hearing in 2001, the community participants filed a complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Civil Rights alleging discrimination in the Environment Department’s permit proceedings.  EPA has yet to make a determination.  Last summer, the community participants, four other non-governmental organizations and one individual filed a lawsuit against EPA to get action on their long-standing discrimination complaints.  For more information, please visit http://sacredtrustnm.org/, http://sacredtrustnm.org/nmed-the-triassic-park-permit-just-as-bad-as-the-first-time/, http://sacredtrustnm.org/thirteen-years-counting-southeast-new-mexico-civil-rights-and-the-epa/ and http://nuclearactive.org/card-civil-rights-complaint-to-epa-about-triassic-park-thirteen-years-and-no-resolution/

Comments are due by 5 pm Mountain Daylight Time on Sunday, August 14th, 2016.  To download a sample public comment, please go to:  Triassic-Park-Sample-Public-Comment-8-4-16-2 and email to Dave.Cobrain@state.nm.us.  NOTE: Additional sample comments will be available next week

 

Annual Sack Cloth and Ashes Hiroshima Memorial Set for Saturday, August 6th in Los Alamos

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play3To commemorate the 71st anniversary of the U.S. bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan with nuclear weapons on August 6th and August 9th, 1945, respectively, Pax Christi New Mexico is hosting their Annual Sack Cloth and Ashes Memorial on Saturday, August 6th in Los Alamos, New Mexico.  People will gather around Ashley Pond, in the center of town, from 2 to 4 p.m.  Sack cloths, or burlap bags, and ashes will be provided.

After receiving instructions and a blessing from John Dear, participants will carry sackcloth and ashes and walk mindfully on Trinity Drive toward Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the birthplace of the atomic bomb.  At 2:30 p.m., participants will sit down in silence for 30 minutes to meditate, pray and mournfully remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki and envision a day when nuclear weapons will no longer exist.  Afterwards, participants will walk back to Ashley Pond for reflection, music and speakers.

The use of sack cloths and ashes is the oldest symbol of protest, going back 3,000 years.  As described in the Book of Jonah, the people of Ninevah sat in sackcloth and ashes and repented for their sins.  On August 6th, the people attending the event will repent for the mortal sin of war and nuclear weapons.

In 2008, John Dear described the event in Common Dreams.  He wrote, “You might think it strange that people resort to sackcloth and ashes.  But in a town where thousands of people build and perfect weapons of mass destruction, in a world of war, executions, poverty, starvation, nuclear weapons, and global warming, our gesture was an eminently sane thing to do.”  http://www.commondreams.org/views/2008/08/06/hiroshima-ninevah-and-los-alamos

Bud Ryan, an organizer of the event, invites you to join Pax Christi New Mexico and to take action.  He said, “If you can’t join us here in New Mexico, please write and/or call your two senators, your congressperson and President Obama and tell them you do not want the proposed $1 trillion dollar modernization and upgrade of our nuclear weapons.”

On Thursday, August 4th from 4 to 5 pm, Bud Ryan and John Dear will be guests on “Living on the Edge,” a KSFR 101.1 FM radio show, with hosts David Bacon and Xubi Wilson.  You may listen live by going to http://ksfr.org/ and click on the “Listen Now” button.  There will be a discussion of the August 6th event; nuclear weapons and Los Alamos National Laboratory; the 10-year, $1 trillion dollar plan to modernize nuclear weapons; why the international community needs to abolish nuclear weapons; and why the U.S. needs to implement its promises made when it signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in 1970.

For more information, please contact Bud Ryan at bud@siochainworld.org or by phone at (505) 264-2838.Hiroshima-Day-Meditation

Last August to commemorate the 70th anniversary, Pace e Bene, Peace + All Good, hosted a sold-out Campaign Nonviolence National Conference in Santa Fe.  In 1989, Pace e Bene was founded by the Franciscan Friars of California and is now an independent, nondenominational organization.  http://www.paceebene.org/  To learn more about their conference, please visit http://www.paceebene.org/programs/campaign-nonviolence/campaign-nonviolence-national-conference/  Videos of the Sack Cloth and Ashes events, as well as the conference speeches are, available on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNgZp3dmm4Y&feature=youtu.be&list=PL_hAAoZ6si8N5LW1vWEbS0rhzccf0dwYG

 

ACTION ALERT – ASK EPA TO WITHDRAW THE PROPOSED DANGEROUS RADIOACTIVE DRINKING WATER PROTECTIVE ACTION GUIDES (PAGS) PLEASE TAKE ACTION TODAY!

hqdefaultCCNS is forwarding this important Action Alert from our colleagues at the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS).  With just a few clicks, you can protect our drinking water from EPA’s plan to allow radiation levels hundreds and thousands of times higher than the Safe Drinking Water Act allows during emergencies.  Please take a few minutes to email your comments to EPA by going to the NIRS website at http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5502/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=23400.  The link will take you to the comment letter on the NIRS website.  With a few clicks, your comments will be submitted to EPA.

To read CCNS’s recent News Updates about this issue, go to:  http://nuclearactive.org/epa-proposes-thousand-fold-increase-for-radioactivity-in-drinking-water-following-emergencies-public-comments-due-monday-july-25th/ and http://nuclearactive.org/epa-proposes-thousand-fold-increase-in-radioactivity-for-drinking-water-following-emergencies-public-comments-due-july-25th/

Thank you!  Together we are making a difference!

CCNS

 

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing so-called “Protective Action Guides” for Drinking Water (Water PAGs) that will actually increase the danger to the public.

Enormous levels of invisible but deadly radioactive contamination would be permitted in drinking water for weeks, months or even years after a nuclear accident or “incident.”

Tell the EPA – withdraw the dangerous radioactive drinking water PAGs.

EPA is recommending allowable radiation levels hundreds and thousands of times higher than currently allowed in drinking water and at cleaned-up Superfund sites. Outrageously, EPA is expanding the kinds of radioactive incidents that would be allowed to give off these dangerously high levels and doses.

PAGs originally applied to huge nuclear disasters like the nuclear power meltdowns at Fukushima or a dirty bomb BUT NOW they could ALSO apply to less dramatic releases from nuclear power reactors or radio-pharmaceutical spills, nuclear transport accidents, fires or any radioactive “incident” …that “warrant[s] consideration of protective action.”

Stop the dangerous radioactive drinking water PAGs.

This is a deceptive way to circumvent the Safe Drinking Water Act, Superfund cleanup levels, and EPA’s history of limiting the allowable risk of cancer to 1 in a million people exposed, or at most 1 in 10,000 in worst-case scenarios. The PAGs protect the polluters from liability, not the public from radiation.

Tell EPA to reject the proposed Water PAGs and the 2013 PAGs.

You can find more information about the EPA’s proposal by following the action link above, and don’t hesitate to contact NIRS. You can also find background information on the dangers of radiation and the PAGs on NIRS’s website.

Thanks for all you do!

Diane D’Arrigo

Radioactive Waste Project Director

dianed@nirs.org

Stay Informed:water_radioactive

NIRS on the web: http://www.nirs.org

GreenWorld: (NIRS’ blog chronicling nuclear issues and the transition to a nuclear-free, carbon-free energy system) http://www.safeenergy.org

NIRS on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nuclear-Information-and-Resource-Service/26490791479?sk=wall&filter=12

http://www.facebook.com/nonukesnirs

http://www.facebook.com/groups/nukefreeclimatefreemarch/

NIRS on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/nirsnet

NIRS on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/nirsnet

Please note: NIRS never sells, rents, trades, or otherwise makes our e-mail lists available to other organizations or individuals for any reason.

 

Nuclear Watch New Mexico Seeks to Invalidate New Cleanup Order for LANL – 71 spaces, so we’re ok for this week!

leakybarrles

play3Nuclear Watch New Mexico amended its complaint against the U.S. Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Security, LLC, which alleges twelve cleanup violations of the 2005 Consent Order issued by the New Mexico Environment Department for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), asking the federal court to invalidate the recently issued Consent Order because the Department did not hold a formal public hearing as required by federal and state hazardous waste laws and regulations.  http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NukeWatch-First-Amended-Complaint-as-filed-20160719.pdf

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is the owner of LANL, and the Los Alamos National Security, LLC, (LANS), a privately held corporation, is the management contractor responsible for the cleanup work.

The 2005 Consent Order required cleanup of LANL by December 6, 2015, a deadline that was not met.  The 2016 Consent Order does not have a final compliance date.  https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/lanlperm.html  It is open-ended and creates huge loopholes which allows DOE and LANL to declare that cleanup is too expensive or impractical.  This would result in radioactive and hazardous waste that is already leaking into the groundwater to be left in place.

The regulations, which were explicitly incorporated into the 2005 Consent Order, require that anytime a final compliance date is changed, the opportunity for a public hearing is available.  The new Consent Order does not provide a final compliance date.  Nuclear Watch argues that DOE and the Environment Department violated the public’s due process rights by not holding a formal hearing.

Holding a formal hearing allows the public the opportunity to present technical testimony, to cross-examine DOE, LANS and Department witnesses, and following the hearing, to prepare findings of fact and conclusions of law.  The public also has the opportunity to appeal the final decision to the New Mexico Court of Appeal.  Despite early assurances that the Department would hold a public hearing, the DOE and the Department agreed in the new Consent Order that there would be no hearing.

Further, on June 23, 2016, the Environment Department intervened in the case on the defendants’ side of DOE and LANS.  The next day, the Environment Department and DOE signed the 2016 Consent Order following a 60-day comment period.  Over 40 citizens, non-profit organizations, public officials and two Pueblos submitted comments.  CCNS and independent registered geologist Robert H. Gilkeson also submitted extensive comments questioning the changes.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, “The Nuclear Watch New Mexico lawsuit is essential to ensure that the public’s due process rights are protected. There are too many examples of the Martinez Administration attempts to shortcut public participation.  This is another.  Many thanks to Nuclear Watch New Mexico and their lawyers for stepping forward to protect our rights.”June_02--LANL.jpg.180x0_q85

For more specifics about the Nuclear Watch New Mexico litigation, please visit http://nukewatch.org.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s original lawsuit complaint is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NukeWatch-Complaint-Filed-20160512.pdf

The May 5, 2016 second notice of intent to sue (which is a good summary of the complaint) is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NukeWatch-2nd-NOI-DOE-LANS-5-5-16.pdf

The January 20, 2016 notice of intent to sue is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NukeWatch-NM-NOI-to-DOE-and-LANS-20160120.pdf

 

EPA Proposes Thousand-Fold Increase for Radioactivity in Drinking Water Following Emergencies – Public Comments Due Monday, July 25th

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play3In early June, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly released draft guidance to be used following a radiation contamination incident, like a nuclear meltdown or a spill, which would allow radioactivity in drinking water at concentrations vastly greater than allowed under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2007-0268-0210   Under the proposed Protective Action Guides (PAGs) for drinking water, no actions to protect the public would be taken even if the radioactivity in drinking water were dozens or thousands or millions of times higher than Safe Drinking Water Act levels.  The PAGs would allow radiation exposures from drinking water for up to four years that are equivalent to 250 chest x-rays a year, or five x-rays a week for 50 weeks a year.

For example, the current limit for radioactive iodine-131 in drinking water is 3 picoCuries per liter.  Iodine-131 is linked to thyroid disease.  The proposed guidance would allow 10,350 picoCuries per liter of water, which is 3,450 times more concentrated.  Further, the current drinking water limit for radioactive strontium-90, which causes leukemia, is 8 picoCuries per liter of water.  The proposed guidance allows 7,400 picoCuries per liter of water, a 925-fold increase.

EPA explained in its federal register notice announcing the release of the draft guidance that “[t]he PAG levels are guidance for emergency situations; they do not supplant any standards or regulations, nor do they affect the stringency or enforcement of any standards or regulations.  The PAG levels are intended to be used only in an emergency when radiation levels have already exceeded environmental standards.  EPA expects that any drinking water system adversely impacted during a radiation incident will take action to return to compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act levels as soon as practicable.”  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2007-0268-0210 at last paragraph of Section E.

In response, Diane D’Arrigo, the Radioactive Waste Project Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said, “Look no further than the current water crisis in Flint, Michigan to understand [the] concern that the EPA will not act to protect public health in an emergency.  In this case, the EPA is attempting to ensure that it would not have to act decisively to protect public health!”  http://www.nirs.org/home.htm

Catherine Thomasson, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, added, “Clean water is essential for health.  Just like lead, radiation, when ingested in small amounts, is very hazardous to our health.  It is inconceivable that EPA could now quietly propose allowing enormous increases in radioactive contamination with no action to protect the public, even if concentrations are a thousand times higher than under the Safe Drinking Water Act.”  http://www.psr.org/resources/letter-to-epa-pags-radionuclides.html

Public comments are due to EPA by Monday, July 25th, 2016 to EPA.  Food and Water Watch has an electronic petition you can sign at http://leftaction.com/radiation-drinking-water

To submit electronic comments to EPA, go to https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2007-0268-0210 water_radioactive

or by mail to:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
EPA Docket Center
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2007-0268
Mail Code 28221T
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460

 

For more information, please visit:  https://www.epa.gov/dockets/where-send-comments-epa-dockets

 

Saturday, July 16th Commemoration Events of Trinity Atomic Bomb Test in Tularosa, and Church Rock Uranium Tailings Spill in Church Rock

play3Sharing a moment of silence and statements at each of the commemoration events, the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium and the Red Water Pond Road Community Association on the Navajo Nation will experience their loss, offer healing prayers, and provide community education about the first atomic bomb test at the Trinity Test Site in 1945 and the largest liquid uranium tailings spill in the U.S. that flowed into the Rio Puerco in 1979.  Both events happened on July 16th in New Mexico.  This is the first time the groups have shared a moment of silence and statements supporting their work for restorative justice for the people harmed by both tragedies.  The public is invited to participate in the events.

In the early morning of July 16, 1945, the U.S. government detonated the first atomic bomb from a 100-foot metal structure in the south central desert of New Mexico.  In the massive explosion, the radiation and toxic materials rose an estimated 70,000 feet and fell back to earth in what many thought was snow.  Kids played in it and the cattle and vegetable gardens were covered in it.

The innocent people of the Tularosa Basin were not informed beforehand and were not evacuated after the test, even though the exposures were at least 10,000 times higher than what is considered safe today.  Cancer rates in the Tularosa Basin are four to eight times higher than the national average.

To memorialize those who have died and to honor those who are living with or who have survived cancer, the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, in cooperation with the Village of Tularosa, will host the Seventh Annual Candlelight Vigil on Saturday, July 16th from 8 to 10 pm at the Tularosa Little League Field, on La Luz Avenue, west of the Tularosa High School.  Luminarias will be available for a small donation beginning at 7:30 p.m.     July 16, 2016 TBDC event flyer

The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium received a grant from the Santa Fe Community Foundation to conduct a health impact assessment (HIA) and collect health surveys from those living in the communities surrounding the Trinity Test Site.  On Saturday, July 16th from 3 to 5 p.m., they will be available at the Tularosa Courthouse (located at 609 St. Francis Drive, Tularosa, NM) to accept health surveys and to discuss the health impact assessment process.  On Sunday, July 17th, beginning at 1 p.m., they will be holding a forum to inform the health impact assessment.  It will be a time that people can discuss openly with each other about their experiences and recollections.

For more information, please contact Tina Cordova at 505 897-6787.

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On July 16th, 1979, an earthen uranium tailings dam at the United Nuclear Corporation Church Rock Uranium Mill failed and released 1,000 tons of solid radioactive uranium mill waste and more than 90 million gallons of acidic and radioactive liquids into the Rio Puerco.  It contributed to the long-term contamination already present in the watershed from the release of untreated or poorly treated uranium mine water.

On Saturday, July 16th, the Red Water Pond Road Community Association will host 37th Annual Commemoration of the North East Church Rock Uranium Tailings Spill from 7 am to 3 pm, located 12 miles north of Red Rock State Park on State Highway 566.  There will be a walk to the spill site to offer healing prayers, food, speeches, a silent auction and community education.  37th Annual Spill Commemoration event flyer

The Red Water Pond Road Community Association and partners are very concerned about the uranium contamination legacy, which has poisoned our Mother Earth.  They are working to ensure cleanup of three Superfund sites.

They cordially invite you to “join the community on this journey to heal our Diné and Mother Earth and restore the Hozho’.  We believe we need to support one another and cherish all our families and communities, just as our elders have.  By working together, with our combined intelligence and wisdom we can and are addressing this legacy to provide a life of balance and harmony for our people now and for the future generations.

“This historic event is open to all ages and will share the struggles people face in their daily lives, the healing yet to come for our people and Mother Earth, and the awareness and education required in the local area, tribally, statewide and on the national level. We would like the younger generation to be present, advocate and carry on these traditions of caring for Mother Earth.

“It is said that The Four Sacred Mountains say to us,

‘My child, I will feed you, give you good health, and

I will give you strength and courage.

My child, I will give you clean air and clean water to drink.

I am your Life.

My child, get ready now and educate yourself.

Improve yourself and don’t forget who you are.

My child, what I am dressed with, is what you are dressed with.

I am your home and your mother and father.’

“Let us come together again and share these issues and concerns, collaborate and strategize, to push clean up of these contaminated environments among our Diné people to restore, preserve and protect our Mother Earth.”

For more information, please contact Edith Hood at 505-905-8051 or visit http://swuraniumimpacts.org/category/uranium-events/.

 

NMED Signs New Consent Order for LANL; Follows Failed Campaign Approach Resulting in LANL Shipping Faulty Waste Drum to WIPP

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play3The “new” Consent Order for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) substantially changes the focus of cleanup from work at specific sites to a broad “campaign approach.”  The campaign approach failed dramatically when it was used to accelerate shipping plutonium-contaminated waste from LANL to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), as directed by New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and her Environment Department.  In February 2014, one or more of the LANL drums shipped to WIPP under the accelerated campaign approach exploded in the WIPP underground, contaminating 22 workers and shutting down the facility.  Over 600 potentially exploding drums are disposed of in the WIPP underground, with no plans for removal.

On Friday, June 24th, the New Mexico Environment Department signed the “new” Compliance Order on Consent, or the 2016 Consent Order, with the Department of Energy (DOE) for cleanup at LANL.  https://www.env.nm.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/160624PR-ConsentOrderFinalized.pdf

The 2016 Consent Order expands the use of the campaign approach for accelerated cleanup.  Examples include the chromium plume in the regional drinking water aquifer; areas contaminated with high explosives and other hazardous wastes; and Technical Area-49 where plutonium devices were tested underground in the early 1960s.  The evidence is clear that when LANL accelerates cleanup, disaster follows.

Further, the Environment Department and DOE agreed amongst themselves to remove all public participation for any modification of the 2016 Consent Order, including the opportunity to request a public hearing, as required by the applicable hazardous waste laws and regulations.  https://www.env.nm.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/LANL_Consent_Order_FINAL.pdf

For example, on p. 25:

Section VII.  RELATIONSHIP TO PERMITS

  1. The Parties [DOE and NM Environment Department] agree that the rights, procedures and other protections set forth at 20.4.1.900 NMAC (incorporating 40 C.F.R. § 270.42), 20.4.1.901 NMAC, and 20.4.1.902 NMAC, including, but not limited to, opportunities for public participation, including public notice and comment, administrative hearings, and judicial appeals, do not apply to modification of the Consent Order itself. [Emphasis added.]

 

A restatement, on p. 68:

Section XXXIII.  MODIFICATION

  1. This Consent Order may be modified by agreement of DOE and NMED. All modifications shall be in writing and shall become effective upon the date on which such modifications are signed by both DOE and NMED. Pursuant to Section VII (Relationship to Permits), modifications of this Consent Order are not subject to the requirements in 40 CFR § 270.42. [Emphasis added.]

 

40 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Section 270.42 addresses permit modifications and provides many opportunities for public participation, including public notice, review and comment; administrative hearings, where the public may cross-examine witnesses; and judicial appeals.  It also provides categories for modifications.  Under the regulation, modification of the Consent Order would be considered a major Class 3 modification, requiring notice, review and public comment; opportunity for a public hearing; and judicial appeal.

Public comments about the draft 2016 Consent Order (including CCNS and Robert H. Gilkeson, Independent Registered Geologist) are available at https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/lanlperm.html#Comments2016DraftCO

The new Consent Order does not include a final compliance date, which superceded the 2005 Consent Order that did contain a final completion date.  Under the “old” Consent Order, all legacy waste cleanup was supposed to be done by December 6, 2015 with the cleanup of the 63-acre Area G dump.  That did not happen.  For that reason and others, Nuclear Watch New Mexico filed a citizens’ suit under the hazardous waste laws against DOE and Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), the management contractor, for missing the 2005 Consent Order cleanup deadlines.  http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NukeWatch-Complaint-Filed-20160512.pdf; May 5, 2016 second notice of intent to sue (provides a good summary of the complaint) at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NukeWatch-2nd-NOI-DOE-LANS-5-5-16.pdf; and January 20, 2016 first notice of intent to sue at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NukeWatch-NM-NOI-to-DOE-and-LANS-20160120.pdf

Under the 2005 Consent Order, the violations could result in approximately $300 million in potential penalties for missing the deadlines.  Nuclear Watch is asking for a court order requiring DOE and LANS to come into compliance with the 2005 Consent Order “according to a reasonable but aggressive schedule.”

Recently, the Environment Department filed a motion with the court to intervene in the case on the side of DOE and LANS.  As Nuclear Watch wrote in its press release, the request to the court raises “the question of whose side the Environment Department is on, the environment or the polluter[,] in this case a for-profit nuclear weapons lab[.]”  http://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/?p=2289

 

CCNS Challenges EPA to Terminate LANL Outfall from Clean Water Act Permit

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play3Outfall No. 051 at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is a discharge pipe connected the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility (RLWTF).  After November 2010, the RLWTF became a zero-liquid-discharge system.  Since then LANL has been using a Mechanical Evaporator System (MES) to evaporate treated water into the air, and nothing has been discharged through the Outfall.   Nevertheless, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) still includes Outfall 051 in the Clean Water Act permit that it issues to LANL.

This has a serious impact.  The Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility manages a lot of hazardous waste, and it would normally be regulated by the State of New Mexico under the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.  But, under an EPA rule called the Wastewater Treatment Unit exemption, if LANL is regulated under a Clean Water Act permit, Outfall 051 and its source, the RLWTF, are exempt from the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.

LANL has struggled to keep this exemption.  In a 1998 report about converting the RLWTF to a zero-liquid-discharge system, LANL acknowledged that if it stopped discharging through Outfall 051, it could lose the exemption, and the “[L]oss of this exemption would mean that the RLWTF would be required to meet additional [federal hazardous waste law and regulations in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act] RCRA regulatory guidelines regarding waste treatment practices.  RCRA guidelines regarding waste treatment at the RLWTF would focus on concentrations of metals and organics in the RO [reverse osmosis] concentrate stream and sludges produced at the RLWTF.  The RLWTF would need to manage the [pollutants] in the waste stream and so have much better knowledge of, and control over, waste discharged to it for treatment.”  It also acknowledged that citizen oversight would increase under the hazardous waste regulations.

Now, in 2016, the RLWTF has had a zero-liquid-discharge system for over five years.  Even so, EPA has issued a Clean Water Act permit for Outfall 051, thereby continuing its exemption from Hazardous Waste Act regulation.  EPA claims it did so because LANL said it might someday need to discharge pollutants.  But LANL has not used the Outfall for more than five years.

Further, the Clean Water Act only regulates facilities that actually discharge pollutants.  Outfall 051 does not discharge anything.  Its only apparent reason for existing is to obtain a needless Clean Water Act permit that blocks New Mexico from regulating the RLWTF under the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.

Last week, CCNS, through its attorneys, Jon Block with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center http://www.nmenvirolaw.org/, and Lindsay A. Lovejoy http://lindsaylovejoy.com/, requested EPA to terminate Outfall 051 from the permit.  Outfall 051 Region 6 letter 6-17-16, CCNS APPLICATION TO RESCIND RLWTF NPDES PERMIT-20160617, Exhibit List CCNS Petition to EPA Region 6 6-17-16.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, “LANL has been hiding behind the wastewater treatment unit exemption for nearly six years.  EPA should terminate Outfall 051 from the Clean Water Act permit so that the State of New Mexico can take on the regulation of this hazardous waste facility.”