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

Public Comment about Proposed Expansion of Storage Capacity at WIPP due Friday, February 3rd

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC, reopened the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) on Wednesday, January 4th with the disposal of two pallets of plutonium contaminated radioactive and hazardous waste that had been stored in the Waste Handling Building since 2014 into the underground salt mine.  Workers were required to wear personal protective equipment to protect them from radiation exposure.  An official ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Monday, January 9th with DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, as well as other dignitaries, who did not wear protective equipment when they descended into the uncontaminated areas of the dump.  WIPP was reopened following a truck fire and a radiation release that contaminated a large portion of the mine in February 2014.

Once all of the waste containers stored in the Waste Handling Building are disposed of, shipment from other DOE sites could begin.  It is anticipated that shipments from the Idaho National Laboratory would have priority because it has about 20,000 nuclear waste containers ready to go.

Activists question bringing shipments from other sites when necessary mine safety work is needed now.  The work includes installing roof bolts in the ceiling to keep it from falling; required improvements to the ventilation system, which will not be completed until at least 2021; and closing 60 percent of the contaminated areas where recently slabs of salt have fallen.

The current WIPP hazardous waste permit, issued by the New Mexico Environment Department, allows for storage of waste containers in the Waste Handling Building and the Parking Area for a maximum of 90 days.  The permit also allows for “surge” storage of a third of the existing capacity.  http://www.wipp.energy.gov/library/Information_Repository_A/Searchable_Permit_10-2016.pdf, see Sections and  Despite the allowance for surge, WIPP had never used the surge storage until the February 2014 shutdown when the Waste Handling Building surge has been used.

Nevertheless, DOE recently requested permission from the Environment Department to expand operations by constructing a 65,280 cubic foot waste container storage unit on the surface at WIPP, next to the Waste Handling Building and Parking Area.  DOE’s proposal would expand surface storage ten times the volume currently allowed in the Waste Handling Building.

The proposed facility, called a Concrete Overpack Container Storage Unit, would store waste above ground for up to a year.  Unlike the current system where containers are delivered and disposed of, waste containers would be delivered, placed in the storage unit, removed from the storage unit, processed in the Waste Handling Building, and then disposed of.  Waste containers would be handled multiple times, increasing the likelihood of accidents and worker exposures.

Don Hancock, of Southwest Research and Information Center, said, “The outside surface storage facility is contrary to the law and is unnecessary.  It’s important for people to tell the Environment Department to deny the surface storage permit request.”  NoSurfaceFacilityFactSheetrev3 

CCNS and our colleagues have prepared a sample comment letter for you to use, which is available at  WIPPSurfaceStorageComment011917 Simply copy the text from the PDF and paste into an email to the indicated recipient, Ricardo.Maestas@state.nm.us, changing the highlighted portions to your relevant data (current date plus your name and email address)

Please submit those comments by February 3rd, 2017 at 5 pm Mountain Time to Ricardo.Maestas@state.nm.us


Robert H. Gilkeson, Scientist, Whistleblower and Community Hero, Memorial Celebration on Sunday, January 15th

Please join CCNS, Citizen Action New Mexico and Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping as we celebrate the extraordinary life of Robert H. Gilkeson, an independent registered geologist, on Sunday, January 15 from 6:30 pm to 9 pm at the Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center, 202 Harvard S.E., one block south of Central, in Albuquerque.  A simple meal will be served.  http://www.abqpeaceandjustice.org/

Bob was a wonderful friend, storyteller, educator, and advocate.  When he arrived in New Mexico from the University of Illinois Geological Survey, he worked for a contractor to the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in environmental cleanup and groundwater protection.  Through his work, Bob witnessed the attempts to mask the detection of radionuclides and other hazardous materials in the regional drinking water aquifer.  After leaving LANL in 1999, he worked as a private consultant in Arizona.  Upon completing his work there, he returned to New Mexico and learned that the masking had continued.

In 2004, Bob met with Joni Arends, of CCNS, to learn how he could assist CCNS for better cleanup of the over 18 million cubic feet of buried waste on the Pajarito Plateau, where LANL is located.  Bob worked pro bono on a number of issues, including the lack of proper monitoring of the chromium plume in the regional drinking water aquifer; documenting the migration of LANL contaminants to the Buckman Direct Diversion Project; and the increased seismic hazard on the Pajarito Plateau which challenged the proposed, and then defeated, $6 billion bomb factory, officially called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project – Nuclear Facility.

Bob and CCNS presented their concerns about the increased seismic risk several times to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent federal agency that oversees Department of Energy nuclear facilities.  http://nuclearactive.org/gilkeson/

Chuck Montano, a LANL whistleblower, author of Los Alamos:  Secret Colony, Hidden Truths – A Whistleblower’s Diary, and CCNS Board member, said, “Bob was an inspiration to me as a former lab employee and whistleblower.  His unwavering support for justice, in the face of his own struggles, is what I admired.”  http://www.losalamosdiary.com/

Bob first met Dave McCoy of Citizen Action New Mexico in 2006 at a meeting in the New Mexico Environment Department.  Bob had analyzed the groundwater monitoring wells at Sandia Lab’s Mixed Waste Landfill and told the Environment Department they provided junk data. Bob would say, “Bad data is worse than no data at all,” because the wrong decisions are made.

Bob and Dave went through 20,000 pages of the administrative record for the dump and found that the regulators knew the groundwater monitoring wells were all defective.  After filing a complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy had to install four new monitoring wells at the dump.  Bob and Citizen Action produced a 300-page document regarding the defective groundwater monitoring network and advocated for excavation of the dump.  http://www.radfreenm.org/images/PDF/MWL/MWL_exec_rpt_1-2011.pdf  Bob and Citizen Action also were able to compel the installation of four new monitoring wells at the chemical waste landfill.

He worked to stop the federal government from leaving dangerous wastes in place that presently, and in the future, pollute the drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people in New Mexico.

Bob was a hero in his persistent and thorough analysis of the law and technical issues.  In 2007, Bob was given the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability Whistleblower Award for his work “protecting the public by exposing systemic problems with groundwater characterization wells at Los Alamos and Sandia Laboratories and blowing the whistle on the attempt to hide contamination in New Mexico’s regional aquifers.”

Please join us to honor Bob Gilkeson and to understand how we can carry on his work on Sunday evening from 6:30 to 9 pm at the Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center, 202 Harvard Southeast.


Memorial Celebration of Robert H. Gilkeson’s Life – A Community Hero

Please join us as we celebrate the extraordinary life of Robert H. Gilkeson, an independent registered geologist, on Sunday, January 15 from 6:30 pm to 9 pm at the Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center, 202 Harvard S.E., one block south of Central, in Albuquerque.  http://www.abqpeaceandjustice.org/

He was a wonderful friend, storyteller, educator, and advocate.  Bob challenged Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base about their defective ground water monitoring for waste dumps containing radioactive, hazardous and toxic pollutants that are migrating to our drinking water supplies.  He worked to stop the federal government from leaving dangerous wastes in place that presently, and in the future, pollute the drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people in New Mexico.  http://nuclearactive.org/gilkeson/

As an award-winning whistleblower about waste, fraud and abuse at these facilities, Bob was a hero in his persistent and thorough analysis of the law and technical issues.  He wrote and co-authored many reports with CCNS and Citizen Action New Mexico.  He raised public awareness about the seismic vulnerabilities on the Pajarito Plateau for plutonium bomb factories where LANL is located above the Rio Grande.  http://nuclearactive.org/gilkeson/

Let us take this time to honor him and to understand how we can carry on his work.  Join us to say together our last goodbyes to Bob.  A simple meal will be served.


Cease Fire Campaign Victory for Alternatives to Open Burning of Munitions and Hazardous Waste

The grassroots Cease Fire Campaign secured a powerful victory to protect the health of communities surrounding Department of Defense sites that use open burning as a disposal method for conventional munitions and hazardous waste last week when President Obama signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.  The Act requires a National Academies of Science study and broadened the list of alternatives.  http://cswab.org/congress-requires-military-to-pursue-alternatives-to-burning-munitions/  By 2020, it is estimated the U.S. will have 1.1 million tons of munitions in need of disposal.

Surrounding communities have found their air and drinking water contaminated with dioxins, furans, perchlorate, chlorinated solvents, and toxic heavy metals, including chromium, uranium, depleted uranium and lead, among other hazardous and toxic materials.  In order to provide alternatives technologies to open burning, the Act allows the Army to use cost-competitive technologies to “minimize waste generation and air emissions as alternatives to disposal by open burning, open detonation, direct contact combustion, and incineration.”  https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-114s2943enr/pdf/BILLS-114s2943enr.pdf, p. 74.

Craig Williams, program director of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, a member group of the Cease Fire Campaign, calls open burning “a very primitive and dangerous practice.” http://www.kyenvironmentalfoundation.org/  Open burning is similar to using a backyard burn barrel when it is filled with trash and lit on fire.  The smoke and ash can contain hazardous pollutants, including particulate matter, mercury, and arsenic.  https://www.env.nm.gov/aqb/projects/openburn/documents/BackyardBurningBrochure.pdf

In the 1970s, the federal government prohibited open burning of hazardous waste, except for waste explosives.  The military and national laboratories argued that there were no alternatives and requested the exemption.  Nevertheless, alternatives are available, such as confined burn facilities, detonation chambers, gas phase reduction, and a process using water, high pressure and temperature, called supercritical water oxidization.

As a result of the Campaign’s work, the Act also requires the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study of alternatives to open burning, with a report due to Congress in 18 months.  https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-114s2943enr/pdf/BILLS-114s2943enr.pdf, p. 571.

Munitions include small arms cartridges, mortars, artillery shells, rockets, tactical missiles, propellants and other wastes.  In New Mexico, Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories use open burning for disposal of explosives and hazardous wastes contaminated by explosives.  At LANL, a 1981 memo reveals that up to 136,000 pounds of waste explosives a year were disposed of by open burning.  http://lahdra.org/pubs/Final%20LAHDRA%20Report%202010.pdf, p. 19-10.

The Cease Fire Campaign, a project of the Wisconsin-based Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger, works to ensure the safe disposal of the conventional munitions stockpile and other hazardous waste.  Sixty environmental, labor, veterans and social justice organizations, including CCNS, are part of the nationwide Campaign.  http://cswab.org/resources/cease-fire-campaign/

Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, “The National Academy of Sciences report will support our campaign to protect downwind and downstream communities from open burning at LANL.”


CCNS End Of Year Appeal – Help Us Let There Be Peace On Earth

December 30, 2016

Dear Friends of CCNS,

Your support will allow CCNS to continue to defeat Department of Energy (DOE) plans to expand production of the plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) – up to 450 triggers per year.  LANL is the only production facility in the country.  The Bush II administration tried three times to expand production and was defeated by the Peoples of New Mexico.  We’re going to have to do it again.  CCNS leadership will be essential to defeat the new administration’s plans.

CCNS will also continue to:

  1. Bring light to the harm done to the Trinity Downwinders by working with the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium to finalize the Health Impact Assessment for the Downwinders of the first atomic bomb test at the Trinity Site in south central New Mexico on July 16, 1945. We will continue to push for congressional passage of amendments to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to include the Trinity Downwinders, the Post-71 Uranium Miners and all New Mexicans;
  1. Protect surface and ground water from LANL pollutants by continuing to take the lead with the Communities for Clean Water to challenge four ground water discharge permits for LANL, issued by the New Mexico Environment Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that allow for the discharge of tens of thousands of gallons per day into the canyons that flow to the Rio Grande and seep into the regional drinking water aquifer; and
  1. Oppose domestic and foreign hazardous waste disposal at the proposed Triassic Park site (east of Roswell) by working with Deborah Reade and Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (CARD) to keep you and the media informed and to issue Action Alerts.

We will continue to keep you informed through the CCNS Media Network with the CCNS News Update, which is posted on Fridays to our website at http://www.nuclearactive.org, Facebook and Twitter and emailed out to our extensive list – which we never share.

These are long-term struggles and we’ll need to be as creative as possible to re-engage the process.  Please share our emails with friends and family and encourage them to participate.

To make your tax-deductible contribution, just click the DONATE button on the top right for a one-time donation, or the SUBSCRIBE button to make a recurring monthly donation.

Thank you for your support over the past 29 years!  Together we are making a difference!

CCNS Board and Staff



Rapid Seven-Fold “Never Been Observed at WIPP” Increases in Salt Convergence in Panel 7 Where Waste Is Planned for Disposal

From October 24th through October 31st, 2016, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) conducted a special inspection of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and found rapid seven-fold increases in the convergence rate of the Panel 7 salt formation where the Department of Energy (DOE) plans to dispose of radioactive and hazardous waste when reopening the dump in early January.  MSHA_Technical_Support_Evaluation   Other evidence of changing conditions in the WIPP underground include the increasing number of salt falls from the mine ceiling – four in the last two years – in January 2015 and September, October and November, 2016.

Convergence happens throughout the mine, on the floor, walls and ceiling.  Miners use ground control tools, such as roof bolts, and shaving the walls and floors, to address convergence.  Between September 2014 and October 2016, MSHA identified 34 ground control deficiencies. In early December, MSHA cited five additional ground control violations, four of which remain unresolved.

WIPP is located 2,150 below the surface.  Salt “creeps” around the waste containers and encases them.  In September, MSHA inspectors found recent evidence of accelerated creep in Panel 7, Room 4 in excess of 10 inches per year; double the steady rate.  They report, “A subsequent reading just days later indicated that the rates had increased to about 36 inches per year at these two [monitoring] stations, and to 25 inches per year at the third.  Such a rapid increase in convergence had never before been observed at WIPP.”  MSHA_Technical_Support_Evaluation at p. 14.

After that inspection, a massive 200-foot long salt slab collapsed from the roof in Room 4.  Miners who were there just 20 minutes earlier, heard the fall, observed the dust storm, and were evacuated.  MSHA reports, “Just 5 days before the collapse Technical Support’s visual inspection did not indicate that a failure was imminent.  The convergence monitoring, on the other hand, gave about a month’s warning.”  MSHA_Technical_Support_Evaluation at p. 17.

Even though remote convergence monitoring is used in other mines, WIPP miners manually take measurements at stations located approximately 75 feet apart throughout the underground.  MSHA recommended that WIPP install a readily available, real-time, remote monitoring system, which “could have provided an accurate estimate of time of the impending collapse, so that the miners could have been withdrawn.”  MSHA_Technical_Support_Evaluation at p. 20.

MSHA inspectors met with underground miners about their ground control concerns.  One miner said, “The ground control program is now ‘running around putting out fires,’ when roof support used to be more systematic.”  Another said, “The ground in the underground is not waiting on us.  Time is not on our side.”  Another recommended, “We should secure the rooms that we can, and then move on.  We should not try to save everything.”  MSHA_Technical_Support_Evaluation at p. 18. 

WIPP, the world’s only disposal site for waste generated by the research, development and manufacture of nuclear weapons, has been closed for almost three years, since February 2014, when poor maintenance resulted in a truck fire in the underground mine.  A few days later, one or more waste containers exploded in Panel 7, contaminating 22 workers, the public, and the underground mine.  Late last week, DOE gave itself permission to begin emplacing waste again in January.

The December 1st MSHA inspection report was released by DOE on Friday, December 23rd following the filing of a Freedom of Information Act appeal to the DOE Office of Hearing and Appeals by Citizen Action New Mexico and CCNS about the non-release of critical safety documents, including the MSHA inspection report.  For more information, please see last week’s Update at http://nuclearactive.org/doe-denies-expedited-foia-request-by-citizen-action-nm-and-ccns-for-critical-wipp-documents-citizen-action-nm-and-ccns-appeal-denial/

The public release of the MSHA report reveals that significant infrastructure problems remain in the WIPP underground despite DOE’s premature plans to reopen WIPP for waste disposal in January.  The Conclusions and Recommendations section of the MSHA report warns that “[t]he impending resumption of waste handling activities could negatively impact the resources available for ground control.”  MSHA_Technical_Support_Evaluation at p. 20.


DOE Denies Expedited FOIA Request by Citizen Action NM and CCNS for Critical WIPP Documents – Citizen Action NM and CCNS Appeal Denial

With grave public health and environmental concerns about the potential reopening of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) before the end of the year, on December 10, 2016 two non-profit organizations, Citizen Action New Mexico and CCNS, filed an expedited Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of Energy (DOE) for key documents, including the recently finalized 350-page Operational Readiness Review.  FOIA_WIPP_Emergency_Release_Dec10 DOE is required to respond within 10 days to an expedited FOIA request.  DOE denied the request because “no one will die tomorrow.”  DOE-Response-to-Expedited-FOIA-12-16-16

On December 21st, at the invitation of the DOE FOIA Office, Dave McCoy of Citizen Action, Joni Arends of CCNS, and Don Hancock of Southwest Research and Information Center participated in a conference call about “narrowing” the information request.  They argued the FOIA should be expedited because of the existing imminent and substantial endangerment to workers, the public and the environment from hazardous conditions in the WIPP underground, citing the November 3rd roof fall of a 200-foot long slab of salt in the panel where DOE plans to begin waste emplacement.  Workers were evacuated.

DOE responded that the groups could appeal the denial to the DOE Office of Hearings and Appeal.

Nevertheless, despite assurances that the operational readiness review would be publicly released on December 12th, it was not.  On December 15th, the DOE team leader provided a powerpoint summary of it at the WIPP Town Hall meeting.  http://www.wipp.energy.gov/wipprecovery/Presentations/Town_Hall_Slides_12_15_16.pdf  View the Town Hall at  https://livestream.com/rrv/wippdec

DOE describes readiness reviews for nuclear facilities as providing “an independent verification of readiness to start or restart operations.”  See DOE Order 425.1D.  The review team, composed of DOE officials from Hanford, Idaho, Oak Ridge, Savannah River, and DOE Headquarters, found 21 items that must be corrected prior to the proposed reopening and 15 items that may be corrected after reopening.  “Impact on safety” is the DOE’s criteria to determine what distinguishes prestart items from post-start items.

During the Town Hall, Don Hancock, of Southwest Research and Information Center, asked how ceiling collapses would be avoided when waste emplacement begins and continues for three years.  The question was not answered.  http://www.sric.org/

When asked whether Nuclear Waste Partnership, the management contractor and operator at WIPP, would receive a bonus if a container of waste was emplaced in the WIPP underground before the end of the year, Phil Breidenbach, President and Project Manager of Nuclear Waste Partnership, responded, “No.”  However, the Performance Evaluation and Measurement Plan (PEMP) clearly states that Nuclear Waste Partnership would receive a $2.1 million bonus.  See Metric/Milestone 1 on p. 12 of the FY 17 PEMP at http://www.wipp.energy.gov/NWPpayments/NWP/FY17_PEMP.pdf – correction made 12/28/16 from Metric/Milestone 1 on p. 13 at http://www.wipp.energy.gov/NWPpayments/NWP/FY16_PEMP_%20Rev_2.pdf

Quietly, on Friday, December 16th, the New Mexico Environment Department approved the “resumption of normal operating status at WIPP.”  https://www.env.nm.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/161222PR-WIPPInspectionCompleted-1.pdf

CCNS and others argue that “normal operating status” no longer exists at WIPP because it is not the facility originally permitted by the Environment Department in 1999.  It is now a contaminated site with inadequate ventilation requiring workers to wear personnel protective equipment, including respirators.

Dave McCoy, of Citizen Action New Mexico, stated, “The Department of Energy is keeping critical safety documents secret that may challenge an overly hasty resumption of WIPP operations.  WIPP had a fire, an explosion with radiation exposure of 22 workers and the public, roof collapses, evacuations, and lacks medical and radiological response staffing.  Workers and the taxpayer deserve safety.”  http://www.radfreenm.org/

On December 22, 2016, Citizen Action and CCNS appealed the denial of the expedited FOIA request. CANM-CCNS-OHA-WIPP-Appeal-12-22-16


Urge President Obama to Declare a “No-First-Use Policy” and Remove U.S. Nuclear Missiles from “Hair Trigger Alert”


Despite promises made during their presidential campaigns, neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama took U.S. land-based nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert.  With the possibility of a Trump presidency, there are two executive actions President Obama could take to reduce the risks of nuclear war.  Currently, U.S. nuclear weapons are on “hair trigger alert” and ready to launch 24/7.  President Obama could put them in maintenance mode that would provide additional time for information to be compiled before the president, as the sole decider, could launch nuclear weapons in retaliation to a nuclear attack.  He could also declare that the U.S. would never again be the first to use nuclear weapons, as the U.S. did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki near the end of World War II.

It is time for President Obama to fulfill his campaign promise and the promises he made in 2008 in Prague to reduce the nuclear danger.  He said then, “As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act.  We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.  So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

There are approximately 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world and between the U.S. and Russia about 1,800 remain on hair trigger alert.  Currently, U.S. nuclear weapons may be launched through a “triad” of submarines, bombers, and land-based missiles, such as the Minuteman IIIs.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, “We will state the obvious – a President Trump with the nuclear codes scares the bejeebers out of us.  President Obama has the executive power to declare an official U.S. no-first-use policy and to remove 450 land-based nuclear weapons from hair trigger alert.”

She continued, “During this time of giving, please take a few minutes to urge President Obama to reduce the threat of nuclear war.  Two non-governmental organizations, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Physicians for Social Responsibility, have campaigns to assist you.  Children and future generations thank you for taking action today.”   1334830940223

The Union of Concerned Scientists promotes “science for a healthy planet and safer world.”  It has extensive materials on its website about taking nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert, including a short animated video and an on-line letter.  http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear-weapons#.WFNxGoVcNP4 and https://youtu.be/2x_57sE1_LQ

Founded in 1961, the Physicians for Social Responsibility documented radioactive strontium-90 from above-ground testing of nuclear weapons in baby teeth.  It has extensive materials on its website about no-first-use of nuclear weapons and the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war.  http://www.psr.org/nuclear-weapons/ and https://youtu.be/Pk5IT9ehh68


National Grassroots Radioactive Waste Summit Opposes Waste Dumping, Promotes Environmental Justice


play3From December 2nd to 4th, more than 80 activists from around the country gathered in Chicago, Illinois to address the nation’s commercial high-level radioactive waste issues.  People attended from dozens of nuclear power reactor areas where highly radioactive waste is located now; as well as from New Mexico, Texas, and Nevada communities being targeted for new nuclear waste sites; and from along transport routes.  There were also participants from Canada where there are similar problems and from the Marshall Islands, where severe contamination and health problems persist from U.S. nuclear weapons testing.

The Summit included presentations from grassroots people and experts, as well as strategy sessions for activities in the upcoming year and beyond. There was agreement on the unsuitability of the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada site, and continuing strong opposition to any efforts by Congress or the new administration to proceed with that site. Representatives of the Western Shoshones also discussed how the site is totally contrary to their historic and treaty rights to the proposed site. That more than 40 states would be impacted by transporting waste to Yucca Mountain is another major concern.

Representatives from Texas and New Mexico provided information about their “non-consent” to, and the unsuitability of, the proposed consolidated storage sites at Waste Control Specialists, located on the Texas-New Mexico state line near Eunice, New Mexico, and the Holtec site near Hobbs, New Mexico. The Summit attendees agreed that people across the country would also oppose those sites and the transportation through many states that would be required.

Summit participants also agreed with people living near nuclear power plants that the irradiated fuel must be more safely stored. Pools where waste is too densely stored pose risks of major accidents that could affect millions of people. On-site storage in thin-walled casks that cannot be adequately inspected or repackaged when they leak also pose risks of significant releases. Such storage does not adequately protect from accidents, natural disasters, or terrorist attacks.

There was agreement that more robust on-site storage is needed now, including reducing the amount of waste in pools and using thick-walled containers to store waste in buildings that are protected, rather than the existing open air pads.nuclear-waste-dump

Rose Gardner, from Eunice, New Mexico, attended the Summit.  She said, “The country to ready to clean up the mess that’s been created. Since there is no permanent repository, and consolidated storage is not an acceptable option, we need to isolate radioactive waste more safely around reactor areas until there are safe disposal options. Further, environmental justice requires protection of people of color communities that must be addressed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and nuclear corporations.”

For more information about the Summit and to view the webinars about the issues, go to:  http://www.beyondnuclear.org/radioactive-waste-whatsnew/2016/12/2/national-grassroots-radioactive-waste-summit-december-2-to-4.html or go to http://www.beyondnuclear.org, go to Radioactive Waste on the left side of the home page, go to What’s New and learn more about the Summit.


WIPP Requests Temporary Authorization to Install Bulkheads and Proposed Above Ground Storage Public Comment Extended to February 3rd


play3On November 10, 2016, the Department of Energy (DOE) requested a temporary authorization from the New Mexico Environment Department to install eight closure bulkheads in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) underground; discontinue inspections of existing closure apparatus and bulkheads; and terminate monitoring of hydrogen, methane and volatile organic compounds in the waste filled rooms.  http://www.wipp.energy.gov/rcradox/16-3326_Temporary_Authorization_Request.pdf  On the same day, DOE submitted a 757-page revised permit modification request to the Environment Department for the same changes.  http://www.wipp.energy.gov/library/Information_Repository_A/Class_3_Permit_Modifications/Response_TID_Revised_Class_3_PMR_WIPP_Panel_Closure_Plan.pdf

DOE believes it can install the proposed bulkheads under a 180-day temporary authorization before completion of the required public comment and public hearing on the modification request. Nevertheless, DOE acknowledges that it may need to request another 180-day extension of time.  http://www.wipp.energy.gov/rcradox/16-3326_Temporary_Authorization_Request.pdf

The Environment Department has said on previous occasions that a temporary authorization requires showing that the activities are “essential” and the need is “immediate.”  Otherwise, normal public comment procedures should be followed.

The Environment Department’s hazardous waste permit for WIPP requires that any request for a temporary authorization must be posted on the WIPP website, as well as mailing a notice that the document is posted to interested people.  But WIPP did not post their request as required.

On November 29th, Don Hancock, with Southwest Research and Information Center, http://www.sric.org/, wrote to the Environment Department asking that it issue a notice of permit violation to WIPP and requesting a 30-day public comment period on the temporary authorization. sric-ta-letter-112916-1 The next day, Hancock received a response from the Environment Department, concurring with his assertion that WIPP had violated the permit. nmed-ta-southwest-research-response-letter11-30-16-doc The Environment Department contacted WIPP “to remind them of the permit provision and require that they immediately post the Temporary Authorization.”  WIPP then posted the request.  The Environment Department denied providing a 30-day public comment period.

In other WIPP news, the Environment Department recently extended the public comment period for the proposed 65,280 cubic foot waste container storage unit on the surface at WIPP until February 3rd, 2017.  Sample public comments are available at http://nuclearactive.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/WIPP_Surface_Storage_Comment_102016.pdfburned_truck

At the same time, while DOE is planning to close some of the contaminated underground and build above-ground storage, it is working to re-start waste emplacement following the February 2014 vehicle fire and explosion.

Hancock said, “WIPP officials knowingly violated permit requirements regarding posting the temporary authorization request.  WIPP has not adequately justified the temporary authorization, so the request should be denied.  WIPP needs to focus on protecting workers and the public from a contaminated mine that has inadequate ventilation and collapsing ceilings.  It should not continue to propose WIPP expansions and premature re-opening.”