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

Martinez Administration Rushes to Approve WIPP Expansion

Ignoring the normal administrative timeframes and the legal volume limits, the Martinez administration is rushing to approve the proposed thirty percent expansion of the amount of waste allowed at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).   In the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act of 1992, Congress allowed disposal of up to 6.2 million cubic feet of transuranic, or plutonium-contaminated, waste and provided that the New Mexico Environment Department and the Environmental Protection Agency would ensure that the limit was not exceeded.

The request by the Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, would change the way the amount of waste has been measured for more than two decades.  Neither DOE nor the Environment Department have explained where the additional waste would be disposed since there is no space in the existing underground rooms for it.  They have not explained why the change is needed when WIPP is less than 55 percent filled.

In January, DOE and its contractor submitted the permit modification request to the Department, which was strongly opposed by thousands of New Mexicans.   On August 6th, the Department drafted a permit and released it for 45 days of public comment, the minimum time allowed by regulations and less than the 60 days provided earlier in the year for a much less complicated modification request.

Up against its self-imposed December 31st deadline, the Department released its notice for a public hearing on Saturday, September 22nd for a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, October 23rd through Thursday, October 25th, in Carlsbad, thereby preventing meaningful negotiations required by the regulations.  https://www.env.nm.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/FINAL-WIPP-Hearing-Notice-VOR-English.pdf  At the hearing, technical testimony was given, cross-examination of the witnesses occurred, and it was clear that the law does not allow two ways to calculate the waste volume.

Under the regulations, there is a thirty-day period of time following the filing of the hearing transcript for the Parties to submit their findings of fact, conclusions of law, and closing arguments.  In this case, the Parties had only six days after the final transcript was filed.

On December 10th, the Hearing Officer released his 45-page report, which rubberstamped all of the Department’s findings and conclusions, and ignored many facts.  Hearing Officer’s Report The regulations allow fifteen days for the Parties to review and provide comments about the report.  But the rush is on, and so the Parties must submit their comments before the close of business on Tuesday, December 18th – a mere eight-day comment period.  https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/

The Parties include the Environment Department, DOE and its contractor, and those opposing the draft permit:  former Environment Department WIPP regulator, Steve Zappe; and non-governmental organizations, Southwest Research and Information Center, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, and Nuclear Watch New Mexico.


DOE Extends Comment Period for High-Level Waste Definition

On Tuesday, December 4th, the Department of Energy (DOE) granted a 30-day extension of time for public comments about their proposal to change the definition of the most dangerous form of radioactive waste – high-level waste.  This waste, which was created by reprocessing for nuclear weapons, makes up only about 5% of the total volume of weapons radioactive waste.  But it is extremely dangerous because it contains about 98% of the radioactivity of all defense wastes.  DOE proposes two categories of high-level radioactive waste:  high-level waste and non-high-level waste.  Comments are now due on Wednesday, January 9th, 2019, to HLWnotice@em.doe.gov.  Sample comments will be available after the first of the year.  HLW Comment Extension   

On November 15th, the DOE’s Environmental Management Assistant Secretary, Anne Marie White, spoke before the 17th Annual Intergovernmental Meeting in New Orleans.  The meeting is described as providing “opportunities for increased communication among DOE, states, tribes, and local communities affected by the on-going cleanup of the nuclear weapons complex.”  https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDOEOEM/bulletins/21f0a15#link_3

White explained that for a long time she has been involved in the proposed change and she was pleased that DOE is moving forward with a public comment period.  Despite concerns expressed by those in attendance, White asked them to provide their “unique insight into efforts underway to examine possible options to better manage and dispose of waste that has been stored at sites for decades with no near-term path forward.”

White stated the DOE environmental liabilities were the third largest in the federal government.  In February 2017, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that DOE’s environmental liability is over $370 billion and growing.  This figure included cleanup at the three DOE sites in New Mexico.

Every two years the GAO conducts a review of government operations to identify those with vulnerabilities for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.  DOE has always been on the list.

Nevertheless, White asked the participants to “fight the [environmental management liability [] together.”  Some claim that changing the definition could result in an estimated $40 billion in savings.  http://nuclearactive.org/doe-requests-comments-about-high-level-waste-definition/

If the definition of high-level waste is changed, there will be more pressure to expand the types of waste allowed to be shipped and disposed of at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP.   DOE has already tried.

Tom Carpenter, Executive Director of the Seattle-based Hanford Challenge, summed up the concerns.  He said, “The Trump Administration wants to save billions by renaming this waste, at the cost of leaving this waste in shallow land burial.  Over time, these long-lived radionuclides will be in our food, water and air, causing cancer and mutations for generations.  Of course you can save money by not doing the cleanup.”  https://www.hanfordchallenge.org/


Public Comments at Safety Board Hearing Say It All

The public comment portion of the November 28th, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board public hearing about restrictions the new Department of Energy Order 140.1 places upon the Board, was most informative.  Sure, the Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for the Office of Environment Management, Anne Marie White, testified about implementation of Order 140.1, which unduly restricts the Board from doing its work.  She indicated that the Order had not changed the relationship between DOE and the Safety Board.  White left before the public comments began.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/public-hearings-meetings/november-28-2018-public-hearing

It was the son of former Board member, Navy Captain Jack Crawford, who served as a member of the Safety Board from 1989 to 1996, who laid it on the line.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/about/former-board-members?page=1   The Captain’s son, Jack Crawford, did not plan to testify, but he felt compelled to do so.  He was a coach and a teacher.  While he did not study nuclear safety, he knew from the discussion about the Order that things were serious.  He explained that the Board was modeled on the Navy; how the Navy has never had a nuclear accident, even though they lost two submarines.

Crawford compared how the DOE and the owners of the National Football League act.  When there is a need for a discussion between the NFL and the players, similar to the DOE and the public need to discuss issues, the owners and DOE leave.

Kathy Crandall Robinson, provided comments on behalf of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, based in Livermore, California  http://www.trivalleycares.org/ and the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a national network of more than 30 organizations located near DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration defense nuclear facilities.  http://www.ananuclear.org/   CCNS is a member organization of ANA.

Crandall Robinson spoke about the “particularly egregious problem with Order 140.1 [that] redefines and limits the role of [the Safety Board] in protecting worker safety and health.  Yet the Safety Board has been crucial to protecting workers.  To cite one example, the enormous importance of [the Safety Board’s] role in conveying information and carefully keeping records is highlighted in a recent Santa Fe New Mexican story entitled, ‘Exposed:  The life and death of Chad Walde.’  http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/the-life-and-death-of-chad-walde/article_0fafac1a-d8c6-11e8-9b93-d3669f02cc94.html  The news article details Mr. Walde’s journey working in high radiation areas at Los Alamos National Laboratory, from the fall of 1999 to September 2014, and it cites [Safety Board] reports as evidence of exposures.”  https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/16756/Tri-Valley%20CAREs%2C%20Alliance%20for%20Nuclear%20Accountability.pdf

The order, entitled, “Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board,” was issued in May, without public notice and opportunity to comment.  https://www.directives.doe.gov/news/o140.1-interface-with-the-dnfsb-news

The Safety Board’s hearing record will remain open until December 28th, 2018.  The Safety Board will hold its third public hearing in Albuquerque in February.


Safety Board Holds Nov. 28 Live Streamed Public Hearing

On Wednesday, November 28th, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board will hold a public hearing about the Department of Energy Order 140.1, which restricts Board access to personal, facilities, and documents for some of the most dangerous DOE nuclear facilities across the country.  The restrictions are contrary to the congressional legislation that established the Safety Board in 1988.  Its statutory mission is to “provide independent analysis, advice, and recommendations to the Secretary of Energy … in providing adequate protection of public health and safety at defense nuclear facilities.”  The hearing will be held in Washington, DC from 10 am to 1:30 pm Eastern Time, or 8 am to 11:30 am Mountain Time.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/public-hearings-meetings/november-28-2018-public-hearing  It will be live streamed from the Board’s website at https://www.dnfsb.gov/ .

Wanting to hear from the public about the impact of the Order on the public’s confidence in both the Safety Board and DOE, the Board scheduled over 100 minutes for public comment.  If you would like to give public comments, please email hearing@dnfsb.gov by the close of business on Monday, November 26th.

The hearing record will remain open until December 28th, 2018.

This hearing is a follow-up to the initial hearing on August 28, 2018 where the Safety Board received testimony from the DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration officials, along with Safety Board technical personnel and the public.  The hearing was marked by DOE’s insistence that the Order meant little in the way of actual change, and the Safety Board’s growing skepticism.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/public-hearings-meetings/august-28-2018-public-hearing

The order, entitled, “Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board,” was issued in May, without public notice and opportunity to comment.  https://www.directives.doe.gov/news/o140.1-interface-with-the-dnfsb-news

For the past 30 years, the Board has overseen and reported about both worker safety and public health and safety issues.  The new Order limits the Board’s oversight to public health and safety outside the boundary.  The new restrictions do not allow the Board to do its work efficiently and effectively.

The Safety Board conducts oversight and provides transparency at three DOE sites in New Mexico.  At Los Alamos National Laboratory, there are two on-site resident inspectors, who produce weekly reports that are posted on the Board’s website.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/documents/reports?f%5B0%5D=field_document_type%3A38  At Sandia National Laboratories and at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), there are part-time resident inspectors.  They produce a monthly report about each site, also posted on the Board’s website.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/documents/reports?f%5B0%5D=field_document_type%3A39

In September, Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich requested the Safety Board hold a hearing in New Mexico.  In October, the Safety Board announced it would hold a public hearing in Albuquerque in February 2019.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/documents/letters/letter-tom-udall-and-martin-heinrich-us-senate-re-dnfsb-hearings


Important New Mexico Legislative Committee Live Streams November 20th Meeting

In its final meeting of the year, the Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Interim Committee of the New Mexico Legislature has a full agenda.  On Tuesday, November 20th, beginning at 9 am and continuing until 5 pm, the Committee will hear about the Carlsbad Brine Well, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, the Gold King Mine Spill, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.  At 4:30 pm, the Committee will hear from the public.  https://www.nmlegis.gov/agendas/RHMCageNov20.18.pdf   The meeting will be held in Room 309 of the State Capitol and live streamed from https://www.nmlegis.gov/

Ken McQueen, Secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, will give an update about the remediation of the Carlsbad Brine Well.  It is located beneath the South Y highway junction of U.S. 285 and U.S. Highway 62/180.  In August, the Department began to fill the 400-foot deep cavern that is wide enough for the State Capitol to fit in it.  Some officials believe it could collapse at any time.  https://www.currentargus.com/story/news/local/2018/07/10/carlsbad-brine-well-could-collapse-during-construction-officials-say/772046002/

Tina Cordova and Mary Martinez White, of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, will present about the harm done by the overexposure of radiation from July 16, 1945 Trinity atomic bomb test.  They will present about the proposed amendments to the federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act that would expand coverage to the Trinity Downwinders and the Post ’71 Uranium Miners.  https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/

After lunch, Dennis McQuillan and Michaelene Kyrala, of the New Mexico Environment Department, will present the latest information about the Gold King Mine Spill and other Superfund cleanup issues.  https://www.env.nm.gov/river-water-safety/ and  https://www.env.nm.gov/gwqb/sos-nm-sites/

John Kieling, of the New Mexico Environment Department, will present about operations and management at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant under the hazardous waste permit.  The Environment Department recently held a public hearing about a proposed permit modification to expand by 30 percent the volume of waste allowed for disposal.   The Martinez Administration wants to sign off on the proposal before it leaves office on December 31sthttps://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/

Dr. Thomas Mason will be wearing two hats when he presents about the management transition at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  He will be speaking as the LANL Director, and as President and Chief Executive Officer of the limited liability company, called Triad National Security.  Triad recently took over management and operation at LANL for the National Nuclear Security Administration, a stovepipe organization within the Department of Energy, for the research, design, and manufacturing of nuclear weapons.  Triad is composed of Battelle Memorial Institute, the Texas A&M University System, and the University of Californiahttps://www.triadns.org/

New Mexico Senator Jeff Steinborn, of Las Cruces, is the Chair of the Committee.  https://www.nmlegis.gov/Members/Legislator?SponCode=SSTEI


International Uranium Film Festival Returns to Southwest

The International Uranium Film Festival returns to the Diné Nation, with additional screenings throughout New Mexico and Arizona, from Thursday, November 29th through Wednesday, December 12th.  In an effort to keep people informed and aware, particularly during this critical time of escalating nuclear threats, the festival informs.

The Festival’s Director, Norbert G. Suchanek, said, “The issue of nuclear power is not only an issue of the Navajo Nation, who suffered for decades because of uranium mining. All people should be informed about the risks of uranium, nuclear weapons and the whole nuclear fuel chain.”

Films will be shown in Window Rock on November 29th and 30th and December 1st.  Awards will be presented for the best productions.

Screenings will also be held in Flagstaff on December 2nd at Northern Arizona University, in the Native American Cultural Center; in Albuquerque on December 6th at the Guild Cinema; in Grants on December 7th at the New Mexico State University Campus, in Martinez Hall; in Santa Fe on December 9th at the Jean Cocteau Cinema; and in Tucson on December 12th at the YWCA Tucson, in the Frances McClelland Community Center.  For more specifics, please go to http://uraniumfilmfestival.org/

Founded in 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, the festival aims to inform the public about nuclear power, uranium mining, nuclear weapons and the health effects of exposure to radioactivity. It seeks to educate and activate the public and inspires an informed discourse about the health and environmental risks of the nuclear cycle, from uranium mining to radioactive waste storage and disposal.

The Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE) is working to inform the public about the film festival.  MASE is composed of communities impacted by uranium who are working to restore and protect the natural and cultural environment through respectfully promoting intercultural engagement among communities and institutions for the benefit of all life and future generations.

Susan Gordon, MASE coordinator, said, “We are very excited to have expanded the Uranium Film Festival to six locations in New Mexico and Arizona. We have films from more than ten countries.

“We have a strong selection of films that examine the impacts from uranium mining including: “Half Life: The Story of America’s Last Uranium Mill,” https://vimeo.com/161080821;  “Dignity at a Monumental Scale,” https://vimeo.com/261408010;  and “NABIKEI (Footprints),” https://www.facebook.com/Shriprakash23 directed by Shri Prakash from India, who will be attending the Festival.

“We also have films that look at issues along the nuclear fuel chain, from nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands, https://www.kathyjetnilkijiner.com; to nuclear waste storage proposed at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, https://www.therepositorymovie.com; to an amazing facility being built in Switzerland, https://vimeo.com/75918238 .”


CCW Rio Grande Sun Advertorial for DP-1793 (land application) Public Hearing


Sample DP-1793 (land application) public comment letters available here

Communities for Clean Water (CCW) has prepared four sample public comment letters – in word – you can use.  Please modify as needed to reflect your concerns.  They are:

Please include your email address so that you can be contacted.  Thank you.


Show Up for Water! Nov. 7th Public Hearing about LANL Waters

Beginning on Wednesday, November 7th, and continuing as needed, the New Mexico Environment Department will hold a public hearing about the polluted waters that originated in the three plumes in the deep regional drinking water aquifer below Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) that are treated and then applied to land.  The hearing is taking place because of the work of the Communities for Clean Water (CCW) coalition to address LANL water pollution.  http://nuclearactive.org/new-mexico-court-of-appeals-upholds-need-for-public-hearing-about-lanl-discharge-permit/

CCW encourages the public to attend the hearing and present their concerns.  Pre-hearing materials and sample public comments are available at http://tewawomenunited.org/action-toolkit-nov-7-public-hearing-in-los-alamos-on-the-toxic-chromium-plume/, http://ccwnewmexico.org/public-hearing-november-7th-9am/ , and http://nuclearactive.org/

Public comment will be heard following the introduction of the parties on the first day, at natural stopping points in the testimony, after lunch, and again at 4 pm.  DP-1793 H.O. Scheduling Order 10-31-18

The hearing will be held at the Los Alamos Magistrate Court, located at 2500 Trinity Drive, in downtown Los Alamos, beginning at 9 am and continuing until 5 pm.  No evening public comment period will be provided because the courthouse closes at 5:30 pm.  To view the Public Hearing Notices in English and Spanish, go to https://www.env.nm.gov/gwqb/public-notice/#Hearings

On July 27, 2015, the Environment Department issued a groundwater discharge permit, called DP-1793, to LANL, without holding a public hearing.  CCW had asked for a hearing three times during the comment period.  The Department refused.  Land application began.

CCW appealed the decision to the New Mexico Water Quality Control, which affirmed the Department’s decision.  CCW then appealed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals.  In late December, the Court held that the Environment Department “has limited discretion to grant or deny a public hearing,” citing the state Water Quality Act that allows for an “opportunity for a public hearing.”  http://nuclearactive.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/CCW-v.-WQCC-A-1-CA-35253-Opinion-12-27-17.pdf

Because a public hearing for the draft discharge permit for LANL’s Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility was already scheduled for April, the parties agreed to the November date.

Under DP-1793, polluted ground waters are brought to the surface and treated through ion exchange to remove perchlorate and chromium, and through granulated activated charcoal for the high explosive, Royal Demolition eXplosive, or RDX.  The treatment does not remove all of the pollution from the water.  http://nuclearactive.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/ATT00104.pdf

CCW continues to have concerns about the permit.  It allows the use of sprinklers on the back of tanker trucks or mobile units to land apply the treated waters, which spreads the waters into the air and back into the groundwater.  LANL has not explored the use of mycelium to capture the metals and remove them from the environment.       

LANL proposed to cleanup the waters to less than 90 percent of the standards.  For example, the New Mexico standard for cancer-causing chromium is 50 parts per billion per liter of water.  Ninety percent is 45 ppb.  LANL has not explained why they could not clean up the waters to 50 percent, or 25 percent, or to zero percent of the standard.  Each plume is moving to the Rio Grande.

The permit does not require LANL to establish a background, or baseline, concentration of the pollutant in the soils before land application began.  The Environment Department gave itself discretion whether to require soil monitoring at the end of the five-year permit.

These are just a few of the concerns the CCW has about the permit.

For more information and to download sample public comments supporting the use of mycelium, the precautionary principle, and more protective water quality standards, please see the post above this one or go to http://ccwnewmexico.org/public-hearing-november-7th-9am/.


Nov. 7 Hearing about LANL Land Application of Treated Plume Waters

There are three plumes in the deep regional drinking water aquifer below Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  Although the plumes contain radioactive, toxic, and hazardous pollutants associated with operations at LANL, they are commonly known by the pollutant with the largest concentration.  They are the hexavalent chromium, or Chrome 6, plume; the perchlorate plume; and the high explosives, or Royal Demolition eXplosion, or RDX, plume.  Each plume is moving to the Rio Grande.

LANL is investigating the plumes by drilling extraction and injection wells in order to extract contaminated waters, treat them with either ion exchange or granulated activated charcoal, and return the water to the aquifer.  Some waters are too contaminated to be returned to the aquifer.

Under a ground water discharge permit issued by the New Mexico Environment Department on July 27, 2015 for a five year term, LANL received permission to land apply those waters to dirt roads, and to sprinkle the waters in the canyon bottoms.  The permit is called Discharge Permit 1793, or DP-1793.  http://nuclearactive.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/ATT00104.pdf

Such activities are the subject of an Environment Department public hearing scheduled to begin at 9 am on Wednesday, November 7th, and continuing on as needed, at the Los Alamos Magistrate Court, located at 2500 Trinity Drive, in Los Alamos.  The Hearing Officer will provide opportunities for public comments and non-technical testimony.  https://www.env.nm.gov/gwqb/public-notice/#Hearings

To help you prepare for the hearing, Tewa Women United, a member of Communities for Clean Water (CCW), and CCW are hosting a free workshop this Sunday, October 28th from 10 am to 3 pm at the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Center, located at 848 State Road 68, in Alcalde.  http://tewawomenunited.org/oct-28-the-heart-of-the-community-speaks/

The training is called “The Heart of the Community Speaks.”  The workshop will provide an overview of policy-change basics, speaking points, and take action tools.  Lunch will be provided.  Please RSVP for the workshop at http://tewawomenunited.org/oct-28-the-heart-of-the-community-speaks/

The hearing is being held because the Communities for Clean Water coalition challenged the permit when it was first proposed in 2015.  CCNS is a founding member of CCW.  When a draft permit was released for public comments, CCW submitted three sets of detailed comments and requests for a public hearing.  http://nuclearactive.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/f-CCW-DP-1793-Comments-3-2-15.pdf, http://nuclearactive.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/f-CCW-DP-1793-Comments-4-29-15.pdf, and http://nuclearactive.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/f-CCW-DP-1793-Comments-6-15-15.pdf

Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn denied CCW’s request.  CCW appealed to the Water Quality Control Commission, which agreed with Flynn’s decision.  CCW then appealed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, which agreed with CCW that a hearing must be held.  http://nuclearactive.org/new-mexico-court-of-appeals-upholds-need-for-public-hearing-about-lanl-discharge-permit/

Joni Arends, of CCNS, cordially invites you to attend the workshop and hearing.  She said, “Please show up for water.  Thank you.”