Join me today from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Nancy Rodriguez Community Center
Commissioner Anna Hansen
Constituent Services Liaison
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
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Commissioner Anna Hansen
Constituent Services Liaison
In response to community concerns about the proposed increased shipments of more dangerous forms of plutonium along New Mexico State Road 599, Santa Fe County District 2 Commissioner Anna Hansen will host a Nuclear Waste Emergency Response Town Hall on Tuesday, October 19th from 6 to 7:30 pm. Town Hall Nuclear Waste Flyer 10-19-21 The Department of Energy (DOE) has made elaborate plans to transport plutonium nuclear weapons triggers to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for processing. The triggers are currently stored at the Pantex facility, north of Amarillo, Texas. Questions and comments from the public are encouraged during the Town Hall. Town Hall Nuclear Waste Meeting Agenda 10-19-21
The proposed route is approximately 3,300 miles. Interstate 40 at Clines Corners would be the primary route to U.S. Route 285. The shipments would then head north to Interstate 25, past the Eldorado communities, before connecting with the 599 Bypass around Santa Fe. Much of the bypass is located within Commissioner Hansen’s district. From the bypass, the shipments would travel north on 285 to Pojoaque, then west on 502 to LANL. After processing, the shipments would follow the reverse route to Interstate 40 and east to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina for further processing. The shipments would once more head west to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), near Carlsbad, New Mexico. Up to 47 metric tons of what is called “surplus” plutonium could be shipped, processed and disposed at WIPP.
In response to constituent concerns, Santa Fe County Commissioners Hank Hughes and Anna Hamilton held a similar Town Hall at the Arroyo Hondo Fire Station in August. https://www.sfreporter.com/news/2021/08/10/waste-on-wheels/
During the October 19th Town Hall, Cynthia Weehler, citizen activist and former chemistry teacher, will present highlights of the DOE’s proposal to expand the WIPP repository, including the transportation of additional weapons-grade plutonium throughout Santa Fe County. https://www.kob.com/new-mexico-news/new-mexico-weighs-changes-to-permit-for-nuclear-waste-dump/6119251/ , https://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/my_view/speak-out-on-the-future-of-wipp/article_c45eca72-b43a-11eb-bf29-cf1bd8295f0a.html
Santa Fe County Fire Chief Jackie L. Lindsey will give a presentation about Santa Fe County’s emergency preparedness and response in the unlikely event of a toxic and radioactive waste incident. https://www.santafecountynm.gov/fire/fire_chief_and_command_staff
New Mexico State Representative Tara Lujan will also be in attendance. https://nmlegis.gov/Members/Legislator?SponCode=HLUTA
The Town Hall will be held at the Nancy Rodriguez Community Center, at One Prairie Dog Loop, in Santa Fe, which is off County Road 62 between the Agua Fria Fire Station and La Familia Medical Center.
Attendees are asked to arrive 15 minutes early to complete a COVID-screening. Masks will be required.
For more information, please contact Anna Hansen, Santa Fe County Commissioner, at 505-986-6329, or email@example.com. https://www.santafecountynm.gov/county_commissioners/anna_hansen
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This week DOE announced that Panel 8 has been completed. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/us-nuclear-repository-completes-key-mining-project/ar-AAPttZ4
For the first time in three years, the New Mexico Governor’s WIPP Task Force met October 6th to discuss possible negotiations with the federal government about radioactive waste disposal facilities in New Mexico, such as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The federal Department of Energy (DOE) owns the WIPP, a deep geologic repository for nuclear weapons wastes located 26 miles east of Carlsbad.
Forty years ago when Governor Bruce King and DOE Secretary James Edward signed the Consultation and Cooperation Agreement, or the “C and C,” the Task Force was established to ensure that DOE lives up to its part of the Agreement. Consultation and Cooperation Agreement as of August 1988cut
The Task Force includes cabinet secretaries from a wide range of state departments, including Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources; Health; Environment; Public Safety; Transportation; and State Fire Marshall. These departments provide staff to a “WIPP Working Group,” under Eletha Trujillo, who summarized the recent work of the WIPP Transportation Safety Program. https://www.emnrd.nm.gov/wipp-transportation-safety-program/the-radioactive-waste-consultation-task-force/
In public comments, Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen thanked the Task Force for holding the meeting. She spoke to the concerns of her constituents in District 2, which includes shipment of more dangerous forms of plutonium to and from Los Alamos National Laboratory on the New Mexico 599 Bypass around Santa Fe. Since DOE’s proposed expansion includes these shipments, many of her constituents are concerned about emergency preparedness. Commissioner Hansen comment RWCTF 10-6-21 https://www.santafecountynm.gov/county_commissioners/anna_hansen
Cindy Weehler, co-chair of 285-ALL, which monitors community issues along Highway 285 south of I-25, said that the public is in the dark about DOE’s plans to double the size of WIPP and transport of more dangerous forms of plutonium.
Don Hancock and former Environment Department Secretary Judith Espinosa, representatives of Southwest Research and Information Center, urged the Task Force to use the C and C Agreement to discuss with DOE the impact of an expanded WIPP on the public health, safety and well being of New Mexicans. SRIC Task Force letter 100421 http://www.sric.org/
Hancock cited two reports that detail DOE’s plans to expand WIPP: the 2020 National Academies of Science (NAS) report and the 2020 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/disposal-of-surplus-plutonium-in-the-waste-isolation-pilot-plant and Nuclear Waste Disposal: Better Planning Needed to Avoid Potential Disruptions at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-21-48
Scott Kovac, of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, spoke about a less well-known issue: Fifty waste drums, from the same waste stream that exploded in the WIPP underground on February 14, 2014 remain at the Waste Control Specialists site on the Texas-New Mexico border, five miles east of Eunice. That site does not have the capabilities to remediate those drums and they may be stranded there. DOE is planning to bring new waste streams to WIPP, including tons of “surplus” plutonium from the Savannah River Site. https://nukewatch.org/
John Wilkes, Vice President of the Albuquerque chapter of the Veterans for Peace, urged the Task Force to ensure that WIPP must close in 2024. If not, then only plutonium-contaminated waste from LANL and Sandia National Laboratory should be allowed to be disposed at WIPP. https://vfp-abq.com/
Other states have legal agreements with DOE to reserve space at WIPP for their wastes. New Mexico has those rights, but has not flexed those rights. Hancock encouraged the Task Force to look at that issue as well.
Janet Greenwald, of Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (CARD), expressed her disappointment at the recent public hearings about whether the New Mexico Environment Department should approve DOE’s elaborate expansion plans. She was shocked that no testimony was allowed regarding the unacknowledged expansion. She said, “The suppression of speech was almost unbearable.”
The Task Force may invite DOE to provide testimony at its next meeting. Joni Arends, of CCNS, encourages it to also invite the NAS, GAO and the independent Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) https://www.dnfsb.gov/ to provide testimony at that meeting to enhance the testimony of the DOE. http://nuclearactive.org/
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At what point will the New Mexico Environment Department acknowledge the Department of Energy’s proposals for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for what they are – EXPANSION of the underground geologic repository for national defense related radioactive and hazardous waste?
The Stop Forever WIPP Coalition, of which CCNS is a member, formed to educate and encourage public involvement in DOE’s proposed expansion plans. The Coalition envisions a future of fairness and safety where New Mexicans are informed and involved in protecting public health and the environment. You are invited to join the efforts to stop the expansion of the nuclear waste dump site in New Mexico.
One step you can take right now is to submit a public comment to the Environment Department about DOE’s proposal to mine three new access drifts to the west of the existing disposal site and construct and use two waste disposal Panels 11 and 12. https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/ , scroll down to the August 3, 2021 post.
DOE plans to begin mining October, after the start of the federal Fiscal Year 2022. A one-click public comment letter is available at https://stopforeverwipp.org/ and a word version is available at http://nuclearactive.org/ .
The public comment letter also requests that the Environment Department proceed with the WIPP Permit Renewal, which should consider all of the proposed expansions at one time. Many people believe that the Permit Renewal, which has been delayed for 18 months, should proceed before any further permit modifications are considered. https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/, scroll down to Vpost.
In total, DOE plans five “West Wing” access drifts, each parallel to one another and approximately 2,400 feet long. From the southern-most drift, the proposed Panels 11 and 12 are planned to be constructed directly to the south of the proposed Shaft No. 5, which is under permitting consideration by the Environment Department.
The Environment Department can prevent the mining of three of the access drifts and Panels 11 and 12 until such time as there is a final decision on the permit modification, which could take at least 18 months. Due to the significant public interest in DOE’s expansion plans, a public hearing would be held.
On Wednesday, October 6th from 3 to 5 pm, the New Mexico Radioactive Waste Consultation Task Force, sometimes called the “Governor’s WIPP Task Force,” will hold an online and telephonic public meeting. There will be time for public comment to discuss WIPP expansion. A primary duty of the Task force is to negotiate with the federal government about WIPP. For more information, please visit: https://www.emnrd.nm.gov/wipp-transportation-safety-program/the-radioactive-waste-consultation-task-force/ Please use link in the Public Notice (which is attached to the Update) to register for the Task Force meeting. RadioactiveWasteTaskForcePublicNotice Task-Force-Meeting-Agenda-Final
Check it out! 7-minute podcast with NPR’s Leila Fadel and Lesley Blume, reporter for National Geographic, about 1945 Trinity Atomic Test. www.npr.org/2021/09/27/1040983335/survivors-of-the-trinity-nuclear-test-werent-warned-then-were-lied-to-after
Locals were not given warnings prior to the 1945 Trinity Nuclear Test, and their resulting health issues were largely ignored.
A deadline of July 10th, 2022 is looming for continuing the federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) and associated programs. In New Mexico, the Trinity Downwinders and Post ’71 Uranium Workers have been working for decades to ensure RECA continues and will include them in the programs.
On Wednesday, September 22nd, under the bipartisan leadership of Senator Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico and Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho, Senate Bill 2798 was introduced to extend and expand RECA. https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/2798?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22radiation+exposure+compensation+act%22%5D%7D&s=2&r=1 On the same day, Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez, who is a New Mexico Downwinder, led the effort to introduce a companion bill, H.R. 5338, in the U.S. House of Representatives. https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/5338?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22radiation+exposure+compensation+act%22%5D%7D&s=2&r=2 Both bills include the Trinity Downwinders and Post ’71 Uranium Workers and add health coverage. https://www.lujan.senate.gov/press-releases/lujan-crapo-introduce-bipartisan-legislation-to-strengthen-reca/ , https://www.crapo.senate.gov/media/newsreleases/bipartisan-bicameral-reca-expansion-bill-introduced , https://fernandez.house.gov/media/press-releases/leger-fernandez-introduces-bipartisan-reca-expansion-bill
RECA covers Downwinders in certain counties located downwind of the Nevada Test Site in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. Between 1945 and 1962, the U.S. conducted nearly 200 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. RECA also covers Onsite Participants at the tests at the Nevada Test Site, the Pacific Test Sites, the South Atlantic Site and the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico. https://www.justice.gov/civil/common/reca
The first atomic test was a dirty bomb that took place at the Trinity Site on July 16, 1945. https://thebulletin.org/2019/07/trinity-the-most-significant-hazard-of-the-entire-manhattan-project/ Those living downwind of that test are known as the “Trinity Downwinders.”
National Geographic: “U.S. lawmakers move urgently to recognize survivors of the first atomic bomb test: The 1945 Trinity test produced heat 10,000 times greater than the surface of the sun and spread fallout across the country,” by Lesley M.M. Blume. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/lawmakers-move-urgently-to-recognize-survivors-of-the-first-atomic-bomb-test and
Axios’ special “Hard Truths” series on the environment, by Russell Contreras. https://www.axios.com/hard-truths-deep-dive-environment-trinity-test-529e4437-9305-4ba3-ba31-6989a4719efe.html?deepdive=1 and The Trinity Test and its lingering impact on Hispanics, Mescalero Apache – Axios
The new bills expand Downwinder coverage to then-residents of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico.
At present, RECA covers uranium miners, millers and ore transporters, but not those who drilled into the rock to obtain core samples. The core drillers are included in the new bills.
Since 1990, the RECA program has provided partial restitution to over 38,000 people in the amount of nearly $2.5 billion dollars to those eligible to receive compensation and who submitted successful claims. https://www.justice.gov/civil/common/reca, see Awards to Date near the bottom of the page.
Senator Lujan questions why RECA covers people in certain counties, but not “the community where the first nuclear bomb was tested on American soil. There’s not been a good answer given to me nor to the [D]ownwinders in New Mexico. There’s no question of the exposure that resulted from the Trinity test.”
Senator Lujan said, “For over a decade, I’ve been fighting alongside impacted communities to extend and expand RECA. This is about justice and doing what’s right, and there’s no time to waste.”
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LANL Cleanup Contractor, N3B, Cleanup Forum
Where: Virtual meeting, via WebEx platform at https://n3b-la.webex.com/n3b-la/j.php?MTID=m0da5ec5c2343faffa048d6e23784dc69 Meeting password: N3BbWVcTu36
Phone: (415) 527-5035 Meeting number: 1993511775
Background: This virtual event will feature discussions on the Environmental Management mission at LANL, recent progress, and future cleanup priorities.
The community discussion/Q&A that will follow a short presentation will provide one of many opportunities for public input into legacy cleanup activities and upcoming decisions.
For meeting information including login details, visit www.n3b-la.com/outreach.
In a rare bi-partisan effort this month, the Texas state legislature passed a nearly unanimous bill prohibiting the future storage or disposal of high-level radioactive waste. After the Texas Senate voted unanimously and the House passed the bill (House Bill No. 7) by a vote of 119-3, Governor Greg Abbott signed it on Thursday, September 9th. It became law that day and prohibits the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) from issuing related water and construction permits. https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=872&Bill=HB7
However, on Monday, September 13th, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensed the construction and operation of a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility for high-level radioactive waste in Andrews County, Texas. The license was issued to Interim Storage Partners, LLC (ISP), which includes Waste Control Specialists, LLC, and their partner, Orano, to expand its existing facility located on the Texas – New Mexico border, five miles east of Eunice, New Mexico. https://interimstoragepartners.com/ and https://www.nrc.gov/waste/spent-fuel-storage/cis/waste-control-specialist.html
Interim Storage Partners proposes temporary storage of up to 40,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive nuclear power plant waste on concrete pads.
The State of Texas may consider court challenges to the NRC licensing. Those already involved in federal litigation over the license proceedings are four non-governmental organizations: Beyond Nuclear – for all the details and new fact sheets, please visit: http://www.beyondnuclear.org/home/2021/9/14/beyond-nuclear-press-release-nrc-approves-texas-nuclear-wast.html , Sierra Club https://www.sierraclub.org/ , the Austin-based Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition https://www.seedcoalition.org/ , and Don’t Waste Michigan, et al. national coalition of watchdog groups https://www.dontwastemichigan.org/index.html Those cases are on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.
Fasken Oil and Ranch, Limited, of Midland, Texas, which is located in the Permian Basin, joined the federal case.
Tommy Taylor, the Fasken assistant general manager, said, “We think [the ISP operation] is a crazy idea. If there’s a release, it’s going to contaminate the air and be a hazard for all the oil field workers and surface water in the area.”
The non-governmental organizations and Fasken also oppose the licensing of the proposed Holtec Consolidated Interim Storage Facility in New Mexico, located in the Permian Basin about 35 miles west of the ISP site. An NRC decision is expected in early 2022. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/new-mexico-files-lawsuit-to-block-holtec-nuclear-waste-facility-cites-risk-to-oil-and-gas/ar-BB1f5YJk
Karen Hadden, with the Austin-based SEED Coalition, stated, “We’ll keep fighting, continuing our legal challenges and community organizing. The NRC has licensed other facilities that never got built, including two nuclear reactors planned for the South Texas Project site and the Private Fuel Storage facility in Utah for storage of high-level radioactive waste.”
Rose Gardner, of Alliance for Environmental Strategies, a declarant in the federal court challenges, and a resident of Eunice, New Mexico, stated, “I am thankful that the Texas Legislature voted to stop this dangerous nuclear waste from coming to their state. I live less than five miles from the site, yet my community in New Mexico has no vote and no choice, and gave no consent for nuclear waste to be stored at the facility. I have long been concerned about [Interim Storage Partners] and its voracious appetite for bringing more and more nuclear waste to my area, claiming it now needs a license for high-level radioactive waste because the waste disposal business wasn’t making enough money. I hope my concerns will be heard by a higher court than the NRC.” https://www.facebook.com/Alliance-for-Environmental-Strategies-1959311804080514/
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Were you wondering about the next step in the Department of Energy’s piecemeal approach to expanding the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)? You don’t have to wait any longer. Last week DOE held a virtual public meeting on a new permit modification request to the New Mexico Environment Department. https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/ , scroll down to August 3, 2021 post. That request includes mining three new access drifts to the west of the existing underground disposal site, starting next month. In total, DOE plans five new west access drifts, approximately 2,400 feet long. From the new drifts, two new waste disposal panels would be constructed directly to the south of the proposed Shaft 5.
When asked what regulatory agency gave DOE permission to begin mining before the public comment period ends on October 4th, it responded that it gave itself permission. So here we go again, DOE trying to move forward with construction before the required public comment period ends. However, the New Mexico Environment Department can prevent the mining now, until there is a final decision on the permit modification, which could take at least 18 months.
You may be asking yourself, “What is WIPP?” And “Why should I care?” WIPP is the country’s only underground disposal site for waste generated from the production of nuclear weapons. The waste is contaminated with radioactive plutonium that must be isolated from the environment. WIPP is located in a salt formation 2,150 feet below ground surface about 26 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico. https://wipp.energy.gov/
Although WIPP is not supposed to be the only disposal site, DOE has made no attempts to find another site, rather it is spending tax dollars to double the disposal space and keep WIPP open forever. https://stopforeverwipp.org/ , check out Current News.
DOE says the proposed panels are “replacement” panels 11 and 12, claiming they are needed because of space lost, including from the radiological release on February 14th, 2014. Twenty-two workers were exposed and 8,000 feet of the underground were contaminated. https://nuclearactive.org/doe-inspector-general-releases-report-about-failure-of-waste-procedures-resulting-in-indefinite-wipp-shut-down/
Some observe that the proposed panels should be named the “mismanagement” panels because of the large amount of space that was left unfilled or contaminated. Each new panel would have seven rooms, each 300 feet in length, 33 feet wide and 14 feet high.
A local community group of which CCNS is a member, the Stop Forever WIPP Coalition, has prepared a sample public comment letter you can find at https://stopforeverwipp.org/ or download right here: Comment Ltr to NMED re WIPP Permit Renewal-Oppose Panels 11 & 12 Comments are due by 5 pm Mountain Daylight Time on Monday, October 4th.
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In the meantime, DOE is leapfrogging a new permit modification to construct and use three new drifts and two new panels in the ”west wing.” DOE plans to start mining next month. See today’s Update. CCNS would appreciate your financial support right now as we continue to oppose FOREVER WIPP. Your tax-deductible donation is greatly appreciated! Please go to http://nuclearactive.org/ to make your greatly needed contribution or mail it to: CCNS, P. O. Box 31147, Santa Fe, NM 87594-1147. Thank you!
Beginning at noon on Tuesday, September 7th, the New Mexico Environment Department will hold a virtual public hearing for a groundwater discharge permit that includes the construction and use of a Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5, which are integral to the expansion of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Allowing construction and use of those two new surface facilities would directly support the proposed plans of the Department of Energy (DOE) to excavate the Shaft 5 and associated underground drifts. The public overwhelmingly opposes permitting the “5’s” – the proposed Shaft 5, the Salt Cell 5, and the Salt Storage Pond 5.
Breaking News: On September 2, 2021, the Environment Department, Ground Water Quality Bureau, posted its September 29 – 30, 2020 Inspection Report at the WIPP site. On p. 2 of 8, the public learns – despite the information released to the public to prepare for the public hearing – that the Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5 have been constructed!!!
More Breaking News: On September 2, 2021, the public also learns that Environment Department staff, “Inspected the newly constructed Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5. Salt Cell 5 will have to be recompacted due to the extended period between construction and it being utilized. Fencing and signage around Salt Storage Pond 5 still need to be installed.”
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CCNS now asks: Where did DOE put the overburden from the first 116 feet from digging Shaft 5?
The Stop Forever WIPP Coalition, formed to oppose WIPP expansion, has prepared a sample public comment letter you can use to oppose the inclusion of Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5 in the groundwater discharge permit. It is available at https://stopforeverwipp.org/ , with a one-click comment option. Please include your personal concerns. The comment letter is also available on CCNS’s webpage at http://nuclearactive.org/
If Shaft 5 excavation were approved, it would facilitate DOE’s plans to double the size of WIPP, the underground mine for the disposal of plutonium-contaminated waste from nuclear weapons production. http://nuclearactive.org/doe-continues-its-push-for-wipp-expansion/ During the public hearing in May, CCNS, Southwest Research and Information Center, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Citizen Action New Mexico, and individual Deborah Reade opposed Shaft 5. As of September 3rd, no decision on Shaft 5 has been made.
Excavation of Shaft 5 would require a place to store the salt mined from a 30-foot diameter hole down into the waste facility 2,150 feet below ground. The salt would be stored in a new Salt Cell 5. Storm water runoff from the Cell would be collected in a new Salt Storage Pond 5, which would have a capacity of 1.3 million gallons.
On Tuesday, at the virtual public hearing on zoom, CCNS and Southwest Research and Information Center will oppose the permitting of Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5. https://www.env.nm.gov/events-calendar/
Click link to go to the Zoom meeting: https://zoom.us/j/97150104794?pwd=SU10MXdJQWxWeHV1OGRSb1hKdU1SQT09
CCNS also will argue that the Environment Department’s public notification process was defective and does not meet the basic regulatory requirements.
Further, CCNS discovered in the administrative record that key monitoring equipment, including pressure gages and flow meters, have been out of service for 2 ½ years or more. In another case, a control panel alarm does not light up and has not been repaired making it difficult to identify the danger. DP-831 Monitoring Rpt 6-24 to 6-30-19
This reminds us that negligent maintenance caused the salt truck fire underground at WIPP in 2014. https://nuclearactive.org/salt-hauling-vehicle-catches-fire-in-wipp-underground/ and https://nuclearactive.org/wipp-worker-harmed-by-vehicle-fire-sues-operators-for-negligence/
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The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is holding a virtual public hearing for a groundwater discharge permit that would allow the construction and use of a Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5, which are for the expansion of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Allowing construction and use of those two new surface facilities directly supports the proposed plans of the Department of Energy (DOE) to excavate the proposed Shaft 5 and associated underground drifts. http://nuclearactive.org/proposed-wipp-utility-shaft-not-needed/ and https://stopforeverwipp.org/current-news The Environment Department Secretary has not yet received the Shaft permit for review. There is overwhelming public opposition to permitting it.
If Shaft 5 excavation were approved, it would facilitate DOE’s plans to double the size of WIPP, the underground mine for the disposal of plutonium-contaminated waste from nuclear weapons production.
Excavation of Shaft 5 would require a place to store salt from mining the 30-foot diameter hole into the waste facility that is 2,150 feet below ground surface. Storm water runoff from the new Salt Cell would be collected in Salt Storage Pond, which has a capacity of 1,292,499 gallons, or approximately four acre feet, based on a 24-hour storm event of 5.84 inches.
The Stop Forever WIPP Coalition, formed to oppose WIPP expansion, consists of groups and individuals, including CCNS, Southwest Research and Information Center, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping, and the Southwest Alliance for a Safe Future. https://stopforeverwipp.org/
WIPP is currently scheduled to end its disposal operations in 2024. But DOE instead has plans to expand the WIPP underground for the disposal of other kinds of radioactive waste and extend the closing date to 2080 or beyond. Hence, Forever WIPP. http://nuclearactive.org/doe-continues-its-push-for-wipp-expansion/
Further, Congress has long recognized that WIPP is the first, but not only, site for the disposal of nuclear weapons waste. But DOE has not taken any action to develop other repositories, instead leaving WIPP as the only site, which is also contrary to its July 1, 1981, Consultation and Cooperation Agreement, as amended in November 1984, August 1987, and June 1988, with the State of New Mexico.
The Environment Department’s virtual public hearing about the groundwater discharge permit begins on Tuesday, September 7th at noon. https://www.env.nm.gov/opf/docketed-matters/, click on Environment Department Cabinet Secretary, then on Groundwater Discharge Permit DP-831, Administrative Appeal to Cabinet Secretary, or click here for key information:
Several groups, including CCNS, and individuals have testimony to eliminate the two surface facilities from the discharge permit.
The Stop Forever WIPP Coalition has prepared a sample public comment letter you can use to oppose the inclusion of Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5 in the groundwater discharge permit. It is available at https://stopforeverwipp.org/ with a one-click comment option. Or you can download it here: f DP-831 (WIPP GWDP) Comment Ltr 8-26-21 Please modify to include your personal concerns.
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Monday, October 4th: Public comments are due to NM Environment Department about the proposed construction and use of hazardous waste disposal Units 11 and 12. For more information see https://nuclearactive.org/doe-continues-its-push-for-wipp-expansion/ and https://wipp.energy.gov/wipp_news_20210810.asp CCNS will prepare talking points and sample public comments you can use. Stay tuned!
While publicly denying that it plans to double the size of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the Department of Energy (DOE) continues to ask federal and state regulators to allow a new “west wing” in the underground nuclear waste disposal facility. DOE’s documents reveal that the west wing needs a new, fifth shaft and associated drifts that have not been permitted by the New Mexico Environment Department for two new waste panels.
On July 30th, DOE submitted a Class 3 permit modification request to the Environment Department’s Hazardous Waste Bureau to construct two new west wing waste areas, named Panels 11 and 12, directly south of the proposed fifth shaft. A virtual public meeting will take place on Thursday, September 2nd from 5 to 7 pm. Written public comments are invited until October 4th.
Construction of a 2,200-foot deep fifth shaft into the underground would require two new surface facilities, which are a new salt storage cell and a pond to evaporate brine. CCNS and other groups oppose the proposed cell and pond because the Hazardous Waste Bureau has not permitted the new shaft. CCNS and other groups that oppose the new shaft submitted filings to the Hearing Officer on Monday of this week, while DOE and the Hazardous Waste Bureau support the new shaft.
The proposed cell and pond will be explored at the virtual public hearing on a draft Environment Department groundwater discharge permit. The hearing begins on Tuesday, September 7th and public comments are invited. Talking points and sample public comments will be available soon at http://nuclearactive.org/
From the NMED website, https://www.env.nm.gov/opf/docketed-matters/, click on the Environment Department Cabinet Secretary link, then click on Groundwater Discharge Permit DP-831, Administrative Appeal to Cabinet Secretary, or click here for key information:
EPA regulates the long-term performance of the WIPP disposal system for plutonium-contaminated nuclear weapons waste. One way EPA estimates the long-term performance is to run computer models. The basis of the models includes the configuration of the repository when it closes. Since 1999 when WIPP opened, the configuration has remained the same, with no new shaft and west wing.
On April 20th, EPA wrote a letter to DOE about the proposed physical changes to the repository stating that prior EPA approval would be required. Such approval would require a two-year formal rulemaking process.
EPA also asked for additional information about the waste that DOE plans to emplace in an expanded facility. DOE will not provide the requested information until next year. DOE wants to keep WIPP open until 2080, though the existing Permit anticipates ending waste disposal in 2024. See EPA’s website about the August 17, 2021, Informal Virtual Public Meeting on WIPP Recertification: Slides and Documents (including the EPA’s April 20, 2021 letter and DOE’s August 12, 2021 response). https://www.epa.gov/radiation/informal-virtual-public-meeting-wipp-recertification-slides-and-documents
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