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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Our Work

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Current Activities

@RepBenRayLujan’s #RECA2019 legislation

@RepBenRayLujan just introduced legislation to expand compensation for individuals exposed to radiation – a critical effort to ensure justice for the individuals, families, and communities impacted. #RECA2019

Thousands of families in New Mexico and across the country were exposed to radiation causing illness, cancer, and death in our communities. @RepBenRayLujan just introduced #RECA2019 to ensure these individuals get the compensation they need & deserve.

Radiation exposure has taken the lives of too many and continues to hurt our families – it’s time to pass @RepBenRayLujan’s #RECA2019 legislation to expand compensation for these families.


Excavation Comments Needed for Sandia Mixed Waste Landfill

Finally, the Five-Year Review of the Mixed Waste Landfill at Sandia National Laboratories is available for public review.  https://hwbdocuments.env.nm.gov/Sandia%20National%20Labs/2018-12-14%20MWL%205%20Year%20Report.pdf  Comments are due to the New Mexico Environment Department by 5 pm on Tuesday, July 23rd.  Public notice in English:    https://www.env.nm.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/MWL-5-Yr-Report-Public-Notice-2019-5-24-English.pdf and public notice in Spanish:  https://www.env.nm.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/MWL-5-Yr-Report-Public-Notice-2019-5-22-Spanish.pdf  A sample public comment letter, prepared by Citizen Action New Mexico, is available at MWL 5-Yr Review Comment letter 7-10-19

Citizen Action supports Sandia’s review because it recognizes the best alternative for the dump is excavation and disposal of the long-lived toxic and radioactive chemical wastes off-site.  Sandia even suggests that the Department issue an order for Sandia to proceed with a plan, called a Corrective Measures Implementation Plan, for excavation and off-site disposal.  This is very great news!  Citizen Action has been advocating for excavation for nearly two decades.  http://www.radfreenm.org/index.php/mm-mwl

The Mixed Waste Landfill is a 2.6-acre dumpsite that contains an estimated 1,500,000 cubic feet of radioactive, toxic and hazardous wastes from reactor meltdown experiments and the research and development of nuclear weapons.  We know plutonium, americium, tritium, depleted uranium, lead, beryllium, PCBs and chlorinated solvents were disposed there.  Nevertheless, Sandia officials cannot state for certain the dump’s contents.  Among community concerns is the dump’s location near to Albuquerque, Isleta Pueblo, the Sunport, and the growing urban area and children’s park of Mesa del Sol.

The waste lie above Albuquerque’s drinking water aquifer in plastic bags, cardboard boxes and steel drums.  In 2009, a dirt cover, which was approved by the Department, was installed. 

Citizen Action states the, “existing dirt cover installed above the wastes cannot protect the public and Albuquerque’s drinking water aquifer from the long-lived radionuclides and toxic chemicals.”

In May 2005, the Environment Department Secretary issued a Final Order about the dump, which required that every five years Sandia review whether excavation is feasible, provide an update of the fate and transport model, conduct an evaluation of pollution reaching groundwater, and make it publicly available.    https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/SNL/MWL/Final_Decision/Final_Order_(05-26-2005).pdf  But 2010 came and went without the first five-year review being submitted.

In January 2014, the Department approved a Long-term Monitoring and Maintenance Plan, which they claimed started the clock for the five-year review.  So here we are, almost a decade later with the opportunity to review and provide public comments about the dump.  https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/documents/SNL-12-007_1-8-2014_LTMMP_Approval.pdf and Response to Comments https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/documents/SNL_MWL_LTMMP_Response_to_Comments_1-8-2014.pdf

Dave McCoy, Director of Citizen Action New Mexico, encourages you to submit your comments in support of excavation.  He said, “”The public has been in favor of the Environment Department issuing a clean up order for decades.  New Mexico should not be burdened with the human, environmental and financial costs for the nation’s nuclear weapons program and irresponsible waste disposal.”

For more information, please visit Citizen Action’s website at http://www.radfreenm.org/

Courtesy Los Alamos National Laboratory

1.    CCNS has good news to report!  The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) heard the concerns of the community, retired and current LANL employees, CCNS and others about the need for the NMED Department of Energy (DOE) Oversight Bureau to remain in Los Alamos.  On Monday evening, July 8th,

James Kenney, NMED Secretary, announced that the Oversight Bureau will remain in the Los Alamos area as they have been situated for nearly 30 years.  There are several excellent news stories about the meeting.  Check them out!

Federally funded bureau hits brakes on plan to move to Santa Fe, by Rebecca Moss, Santa Fe New Mexican.  Read the article HERE

NMED won’t move LANL Oversight Bureau office from Los Alamos, by Kendra Chamberlain, New Mexico Political Report.   http://nmpoliticalreport.com/category/environment/

2.    Saturday, July 20th, beginning at 7:30 pm at the Tularosa Little League Field, the 10th Annual Candlelight Vigil, hosted by the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, will acknowledge the negative health effects suffered by the People of New Mexico from the July 16th, 1945 Trinity Test.  For more information and to make a contribution, please visit https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/       2019 TBDC Candlelight Vigil

3.  Nick Maxwell, of WeTheFourth, filmed this week’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission Midland, TX public hearing about the proposed plan to bring 40,000 tons of the nation’s most deadly nuclear reactor waste to Andrews County, Texas – on the NM/TX border.  https://nukehearing.net/  The applicant, Interim Storage Partners, is a joint venture between Orano USA and Waste Control Specialists (WCS), that formed after WCS, the original applicant for interim storage of high-level waste, filed bankruptcy and was acquired by J.F. Lehman & Co. Concerned citizens including elected officials, clergy, oil industry executives, parents and others oppose the proposal.  The waste, which would be stored above ground in dry casks, consists of irradiated fuel rods from nuclear reactors, which would be transported across the country, posing risks from accidents, leaks and sabotage. Exposure to unshielded high-level radioactive waste is lethal in minutes.  For more information, go to Beyond Nuclear at www.beyondnuclear.org

4.  If you appreciate receiving the Update and information about the latest nuclear safety issues, events and action alerts, seriously consider signing up to provide a monthly contribution to CCNS at http://nuclearactive.org/  Thank you!


NMED Hosts First Quarterly Outreach Meeting in Los Alamos

On Monday, July 8th, the New Mexico Environment Department will host its first quarterly public meeting in Los Alamos, from 5:30 to 7 pm, in the Pajarito Room of the Fuller Lodge, located at 2132 Central Avenue.  The primary topic will be “the mission and work of the Environment Department’s Department of Energy Oversight Bureau, as well as a discussion on a proposed move of the Bureau’s Los Alamos Field Office to Santa Fe.  Please plan to attend this important meeting to support the Oversight Bureau remaining in Los Alamos.  https://www.env.nm.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/062819-LANL-public-meeting.pdf

A little over 30 years, after findings of radioactive, toxic, and hazardous contamination in established communities where the Department of Energy (DOE) located its nuclear weapons facilities, the Secretary announced a 10-point initiative to improve its accountability to environmental protection, public health, and safety.  DOE provided funding for states, such as New Mexico, to establish oversight programs that would monitor the air, surface water, ground water, and soils for contamination and report their findings to the public.

In New Mexico, the Oversight Bureau is located within the Environment Department and monitors the three DOE sites in New Mexico.  For nearly 30 years, an oversight office has been located in Los Alamos, the location of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Similarly, an oversight office has been located at or near Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.  The oversight office for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is currently located in Carlsbad, 26 miles west.  https://www.env.nm.gov/doeob/doe-ob-history/

About a year ago, some quietly began planning to move the Los Alamos Oversight Bureau to Santa Fe.  After the public found out about such plans, they objected.  Nearly 70 percent of the Oversight Bureau’s work is done in the field.  It would be a waste of time and energy for the majority of the staff, who live in Los Alamos, to travel from Los Alamos to Santa Fe, only to have to turn around and go back to Los Alamos to do their monitoring work.

As a result of the proposed change, nearly half of the Oversight Bureau staff expressed concerns about remaining in their jobs.  Any reduction in staff results in the loss of essential institutional knowledge and history of LANL operations.

In response, the Environment Department’s Secretary, James Kenney, said “We have heard from employees, community members and stakeholders on this proposed move and look forward to continuing this dialogue on July 8.  Through state procurement processes, we are actively working toward finding a location in Los Alamos County for our staff that allows us to accomplish our mission.”

Future quarterly meetings will address other community concerns.

1) Beginning on Wednesday, July 10th, and continuing as needed, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a hearing on the Waste Control Specialists/Interim Storage Partners application to store 40,000 tons of the nation’s deadly nuclear reactor spent fuel rods, at the Midland County Courthouse, 500 N. Lorraine Street, Midland, TX, at 9 am. Opposition organizers are asking that you wear red.  The public will not have the opportunity to speak.  Nevertheless, your presence will make a difference.  For more information, please call or text David Rosen at (432) 634-6081.  Flyer for NRC WCS 7-10-19 Hearing

2) On Saturday, July 13th, from 7 am to 3 pm, the Red Water Pond Road Community will host its 40th annual commemoration of the 1979 Uranium Tailings Spill.  http://swuraniumimpacts.org/


3) On Saturday, July 20th, at 7:30 pm, the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium will host its 10th Annual Candlelight Vigil at the Tularosa Little League field to commemorate the 1945 Trinity test and acknowledge the negative health effects suffered by the people of New Mexico.  https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/


4) August 3, 2019, the 16th Annual Hiroshima Peace Day, Commemoration, and Peace Vigil will take place at Ashley Pond in downtown Los Alamos. 


July Atomic Commemoration Events in New Mexico

July 16th is an historic day for public health and environmental disasters in New Mexico.  On July 16, 1945, the U.S. government tested the first atomic bomb, called the Gadget, on the grounds of the White Sands Missile Range.  The Gadget held 13 pounds of plutonium, of which only three pounds fissioned.  The remaining 10 pounds disbursed as the mushroom cloud came down in the rainstorms that followed the blast.  The contaminated ash fell on open water sources, fields ready for harvest, gardens, workers, and animals.

Thirty-four years later, on July 16, 1979, the largest uranium tailings spill in the U.S. occurred at the North East Church Rock Uranium Tailings site.  An earthen dam, operated by United Nuclear Corporation, holding liquid uranium waste, broke.  It released 1,100 million tons of solid radioactive mill waste and more than 90 million gallons of acidic and radioactive liquids into the Rio Puerco.  The contaminated waters flowed downstream through Gallup, and across nine Navajo chapters, contaminating at least 80 miles of the river and its banks.

On Saturday, July 13th, from 7 am to 3 pm, the Red Water Pond Road Community will host its 40th annual commemoration of the 1979 Uranium Tailings Spill, at a location 12 miles north of the Red Rock State Park on State Highway 566, near Church Rock.  At 7 am there will be a walk to the spill site to offer healing prayers and educational events.

Edith Hood, a resident of the Red Water Pond Road Community, said, “Let us come together again and share these issues and concerns, collaborate and strategize, to push cleanup of these contaminated environments among our Dine people, to restore, preserve and protect our Mother Earth.”

On Sunday, July 14th, a Nuclear National Film Showing will take place in Gallup from noon to 4 pm.  40th Uranium Tailings Spill Commemoration 19 Flyer

For more information, please visit http://swuraniumimpacts.org/

On Saturday, July 20th, beginning at 7:30 pm, the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium will host its 10th Annual Candlelight Vigil to commemorate the harm experienced from the 1945 Trinity test.  It will be held at the Tularosa Little League Field, located west of the Tularosa High School.

The Downwinders will memorialize loved ones who have lost their lives to cancer and honor those who are living with or who have survived cancer by lighting luminarias with individual names written on the paper bags.

Tina Cordova, co-founder of the organization, said, “It’s difficult to grasp that we’ve been doing this for ten years now. Our list of deceased loved ones continues to grow.  We’ll light more than 800 luminarias this year, I’m certain.”

There will be a town hall meeting at the Tularosa Community Center at 2 pm.

TBDC Candlelight Vigil flyer 2019

For more information, please visit https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/

1.  CCNS understands that the New Mexico Environment Department public meeting about its Oversight Bureau at LANL will be held on Monday, July 8, 2019, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos.  More information will be available soon at https://www.env.nm.gov/  

2.  Beginning on Wednesday, July 10th, and continuing as needed, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a hearing on the Waste Control Specialists/Interim Storage Partners application to store 40,000 tons of the nation’s deadly nuclear reactor spent fuel rods, at the Midland County Courthouse, 500 N. Lorraine Street, Midland, TX, at 9 am.

Opposition organizers are asking that you wear red.  The public will not have the opportunity to speak.  Nevertheless, your presence will make a difference.  For more information, please call or text David Rosen at (432) 634-6081.  Flyer for NRC WCS 7-10-19 Hearing

3.  The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous silo within the Department of Energy, released its draft Supplemental Analysis (SA) for expanded plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the Savannah River Site (SRS) for public review and comment.  “NNSA is preparing the SA to determine whether, prior to proceeding with the action to produce plutonium pits at a rate of no fewer than 80 pits per year by 2030, the existing Complex Transformation Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement [also known as “The 2006 Bombplex Proposal”] should be supplemented, a new environmental impact statement prepared, or no further National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis is required.”  Comments are due no later than August 12, 2019 to NEPA-SRS@srs.gov.

The draft Bombplex Supplemental Analysis is available here: https://www.energy.gov/nepa/downloads/eis-0236-s4-sa-02-draft-supplement-analysis

The People defeated this proposal in the late ’00s – Let’s Do It Again!!!  Stay tuned for more information and sample public comments you can use.


WQCC Remands LANL Discharge Permit Back to NMED

Citing the need for a “clean, unbiased decision without the appearance of impropriety,” the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission voted on Tuesday to reverse their decisions denying the motion of Communities for Clean Water to send the groundwater discharge permit for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) back to the New Mexico Environment Department.  If this sounds confusing, it is.  Let us explain.

Since the fall of 2013, Communities for Clean Water (CCW) has been working with the Environment Department on a draft groundwater discharge permit for the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility at LANL.  It is called Discharge Permit 1132, or DP-1132.

An overriding issue is the fact that the Environment Department cannot issue a discharge permit for this facility.  Because it handles hazardous waste, the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act, and not the New Mexico Water Quality Act, must regulate it.  The hazardous waste laws and regulations are more protective of human health and the environment than the Water Quality Act, which exempts hazardous waste facilities from dual regulation.

As a result, before the April 2018, public hearing in Los Alamos about the discharge permit, CCW filed a motion to dismiss the proceeding.  Without explanation, the hearing officer ruled against CCW.  In post-hearing filings, CCW again argued for dismissal.  The hearing officer again, without explanation, ruled against CCW.

During this time, the hearing officer applied for a job with the Department of Energy at LANL.  Under the law, the hearing officer should have disqualified herself because she had a conflict of interest.  But she did not notify the parties to the hearing that she had applied for the job.  And she ruled on motions and submitted her report recommending permit approval to the Environment Department Secretary.  In late August, the Secretary approved the discharge permit.  In September, the hearing officer received a job offer from LANL and accepted the position.

In January, CCW learned that the hearing officer was working at LANL.  CCW filed a motion with the Commission to vacate the Secretary’s decision because of the appearance of impropriety of the hearing officer.  At both their April and May meetings, the Commission ruled against CCW and agreed their review of the permit.

In June, CCW filed a writ of mandamus with the New Mexico Supreme Court to require the Commission “to vacate decisions by the [ ] hearing officer who was disqualified to act and the [ ] Secretary’s decision based upon the invalid rulings and recommendations of that disqualified hearing officer.”  190606 CCW Petition for Mandamus 2019-06-06 The Supreme Court filed an Order request a response from the Commission.  It is due on or before July 2, 2019.  190614 DP-1132 37717 Order Requesting Response

At Tuesday’s special meeting where the Commission reconsidered its previous decisions, it also ordered the Environment Department to appoint a new hearing officer and to schedule a new hearing.

CCW is represented by Lindsay A. Lovejoy, Jr., http://lindsaylovejoy.com/ and Jon Block, of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.  https://nmelc.org/

1.    The New Mexico Environment Department public meeting about the Oversight Bureau will most likely take place the week of July 8th.  CCNS has been pushing for a Pojoaque or Espanola meeting location, but has received resistance that the meeting should take place in Los Alamos, “the most affected community.”

Courtesy Los Alamos National Laboratory

Ha!  Please contact the Environment Department Secretary at (505) 827-2855, or James.Kenney@state.nm.us.

2.    By coincidence, N3B, LANL’s Legacy Cleanup contractor, scheduled The Environmental Management Cleanup Forum:  Legacy Waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory public meeting for June 26, 2019 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at Fuller Lodge, 2132 Central Avenue, Los Alamos, NM – the week the Environment Department wanted to have the Oversight Bureau meeting.

3.    Holtec Update:  Did you see the recent letters of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s letter and Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard expressing their opposition/concern about the proposed Holtec consolidated interim storage facility for 120,000 metric tons of highly radioactive waste in southeast New Mexico from nuclear power plants across the country.  If not, they are available here.  NM Governor Holtec Ltr 060719  and  6.19.19 NM SLO Letter to Krishna P. Singh

4.    If you appreciate receiving the Update and information about the latest events and action alerts, please seriously consider signing up to provide a monthly contribution to CCNS at http://nuclearactive.org/  Thank you!


DOE NEPA Docs for Expanded Pit Production Won’t Be Enough

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week that it would prepare National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents to cover their plans to expand the manufacture of plutonium triggers, or pits, for nuclear weapons at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the Savannah River Site.  DOE said it would conduct a full NEPA environmental impact statement process for its plans to refurbish the Mixed Oxide, or MOX, Fuel Fabrication Facility for pit production in South Carolina.  But DOE is not going to do the same for LANL.  They plan to supplement existing environmental impact

statements, which were written over a decade ago.  https://www.energy.gov/nepa/downloads/eis-0541-notice-intent

NEPA is the “basic national charter for protection of the environment.”  It requires federal agencies to take a “hard look” at potential environment impacts and alternatives to their proposals and involve the public “at the earliest possible time to ensure that planning and decisions reflect environmental values.”  NEPA requires public review and comment about the scope of the statement; the draft statement and possible public hearing; and the final statement, with an opportunity to file a lawsuit.  DOE will hold a public scoping meeting on June 27th in Aiken, South Carolina.  https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2019/06/f63/noi-eis-0541-srs-pit-production-2019-06-10.pdf

No similar effort was announced for LANL, even though DOE plans to expand the number of plutonium pits manufactured annually from 20 to 30 – a 50 percent increase.  DOE stated it would prepare a supplemental analysis to the Final Complex Transformation Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, also known as “the Bombplex.”  While not providing details, DOE stated it would prepare “site-specific documentation.”

Los Alamos National Laboratory. At the time of the 2013 shutdown, after numerous internal warnings about the consequences of its mismanagement, Los Alamos had only ‘a single junior qualified criticality safety engineer’ still in place, according to the February NNSA technical bulletin. Courtesy Los Alamos National Laboratory

CCNS believes a new Site-wide Environmental Impact Statement for LANL is also needed before any expansion is considered.  The last LANL statement was completed in 2008.  Since then there have been many changes at LANL.  For instance:  the four-year shutdown of pit production due to severe nuclear safety deficiencies; the 2011 Las Conchas fire; the drought; the spread of the chromium and perchlorate plumes in Mortandad Canyon; and the growing number of countries that have signed and ratified the international Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said, “The Los Alamos Lab has a long track record of nuclear safety problems that must be resolved before expanded plutonium pit production is even considered.  The government’s claimed need for expanded production needs to be critically examined for its environmental impacts, costs and potentially adverse national security impacts.  NNSA’s unrealistic and unnecessary plan for expanded plutonium pit production will accelerate the growing nuclear arms race. Concerned citizens should demand clear answers from the government through the public comment process we have just won.”  https://nukewatch.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Final-news-release-NOI-on-pits-June-10-2019.pdf

…about these Upcoming 2019 and 2020 Events?

  1. On Saturday, July 13th, from 7 am to 3 pm, the Red Water Pond Road Community will host its 40th annual commemoration of the 1979 Uranium Tailings Spill.  http://swuraniumimpacts.org/  
  2. On Saturday, July 20th, at 7:30 pm, the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium will host its 10th Annual Candlelight Vigil at the Tularosa Little League field to commemorate the 1945 Trinity test and acknowledge the negative health effects suffered by the people of New Mexico.  https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/    
  3.  August 3, 2019, the 16th Annual Hiroshima Peace Day, Commemoration, and Peace Vigil will take place at Ashley Pond in downtown Los Alamos. 
  4. Mark your calendar for the 75th Anniversaries of the Trinity, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki atomic bombings events in New Mexico from August 5 – 9, 2020.  In addition, the

NMED mulls move of oversight bureau

By Tris DeRoma

Monday, June 10, 2019 at 12:20 pm

The New Mexico Environment Department Department of Energy Oversight Bureau may move its oversight bureau from Los Alamos to Santa Fe.

News of the proposed move has some nuclear watchdog groups concerned.

According to NMED’s Public information officer, Maddy Hayden, the move is to better ensure compliance at Los Alamos National Laboratory and other federal facilities the NMED oversees.

The move was also about conducting oversight in better, more modern facilities, she said.

“This contemplated relocation to a more modern facility will include a new and innovative laboratory,” Hayden said.

Environmental, nuclear safety groups Nuclear Watch and Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety expressed concern over the move.

Concerned Citizens Spokeswoman Joni Arends said the oversight bureau’s physical presence in Los Alamos was important.

“It’s not the same to be able to drive down to the ‘Y’ intersection of NM. 4 and NM 502 and look at the flows to LA and Pueblo Canyon. It’s not the same as actually watching how much runoff is going off Smith’s parking lot into Los Alamos Canyon, it’s not the same as actually looking up at the Los Alamos ski hill and seeing how much snow is up there,” Arends said. “There’s something about being a presence in a place that allows a sensitivity for what’s going on.”

Hayden said the move would not diminish the oversight bureau’s pollution monitoring activities of LANL.

The New Mexico Environmental Department did not give a timeline for the move.

“The move will not result in decreased services and all program commitments will continue to be met,” Hayden said.

NMED is currently setting up a schedule of meeting where the public can give their comments on the move.

“NMED will continue to ensure engagement with local stakeholders and is initiating quarterly community meetings to provide opportunities for productive discussions on topics related to Los Alamos National Laboratory compliance,” Hayden said.

Arends and Jay Cauglan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, both said that the move would also mean more road time and less monitoring time for scientists at the oversight bureau who do the monitoring.

“If it’s close to two hours in roundtrip transportation, won’t that inevitably cut the amount of time that they can do actual oversight,” Cauglan said.



NMED Contemplates Moving Its LANL Oversight Bureau to Santa Fe

Despite being exclusively funded by a Department of Energy (DOE) grant, the New Mexico Environment Department is exploring whether to move the Oversight Bureau at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) from Los Alamos to Santa Fe.  A community meeting will held the week of June 24th to discuss the issues at a location to be determined.  Your voice to support the Oversight Bureau remaining in Los Alamos is needed now.

For over 30 years, the Oversight Bureau has served as the eyes and ears of the Environment Department in Los Alamos.  Their purview of day-to-day operations and emergencies, such as the 1996 Dome fire, the 2000 Cerro Grande  http://www.nuclearactive.org/docs/CerroGrandeindex.html, and the 2011 Las Conchas fires, has been essential for communities downwind and downstream of LANL.  During the fires, the Oversight Bureau staffers remained on-site and monitored air emissions.  CCNS, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the public rely on the Oversight Bureau’s expertise, institutional knowledge of LANL operations, and their environmental sampling data and analyses.

The Environment Department says it is conducting a proper assessment to determine where the Oversight Bureau should be located.  Nevertheless, DOE provides about $1.8 million annually to the LANL Oversight Bureau under what was called an agreement in principle between the two agencies.  It covered oversight of both the environmental releases from nuclear weapons work and cleanup at LANL.  It is now called a memorandum of understanding and is restricted to cleanup.

Scott Kovac, of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said, “If the Environment Department is concerned about funding the Oversight Bureau, it is time for them to initiate negotiations with DOE to revise, update, and possibly expand the memorandum of understanding and funding for it.”  https://nukewatch.org/

The attempt to move the Oversight Bureau to Santa Fe is reminiscent of the recent DOE effort to revise DOE Order 140.1 to restrict the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board access to LANL facilities, personnel, and information.  http://nuclearactive.org/ana-opposes-new-doe-order/, http://nuclearactive.org/doe-must-hold-hearings-in-new-mexico-about-order-140-1/, and http://nuclearactive.org/santa-fe-county-commissioners-call-for-suspension-of-doe-order-140-1/.  At the same time, recent reports about the use of carbon steel valves in pipelines carrying corrosive radioactive liquid waste again demonstrates that LANL needs more oversight, not less.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/18101/Los%20Alamos%20Week%20Ending%20May%203%202019.pdf, and https://nukewatch.org/2019/05/31/faulty-radioactive-liquid-waste-valves-raise-crucial-plutonium-pit-production-and-safety-board-issues/

Joni Arends, of CCNS, urged people to get involved to keep the Oversight Bureau in Los Alamos.  She said, “The new Environment Department Secretary, James Kenney, needs to understand the importance of the Oversight Bureau staying in Los Alamos for those living downwind and downstream of LANL.  Please contact Secretary Kenney and tell him your story about what the Oversight Bureau means to you.  Explain why it needs to remain in Los Alamos.  His phone number is 505 827-2855 and his email is James.Kenney@state.nm.us.  Please copy your correspondence to your congressperson and your local media.  Thank you.”

Here’s a sample public comment letter that you can use to submit your concerns to NM Environment Department Secretary James Kenney.  Feel free to use the paragraphs that resonant with your concerns – edit them and add your own concerns. f OB sample public comment letter 6-6-19


The Center for Constitutional Rights just published a new Freedom of Information Act FOIA Basics for Activists, an 18-page how to manual.  https://ccrjustice.org/sites/default/files/attach/2019/05/FOIA-Basics-for-Activists-May-2019.pdf  Please share it widely.

Did You Know about these upcoming events?

1.  Wednesday, June 19, from 6 to 7:30 pm at the Center for Progress and Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe – The Santa Fe County Democratic Party is sponsoring a forum entitled, “Nuclear Wasteland – New Mexico?” which will address the challenged expansion of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and the proposed Holtec International high-level radioactive waste consolidated interim storage facility located 16 miles north of WIPP.  Speakers include:  Don Hancock, Southwest Research and Information Center; State Representative Christine Chandler (District 43); James Kenney, New Mexico Environment Department Secretary; and Sally Rodgers, founder of Conservation Voters New Mexico.   http://santafedemocrats.org/events/

2.  Wednesday – Thursday, July 10 – 11, beginning at 9 am, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a hearing about the Waste Control Specialists (Interim Storage Partners) license application for a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for high-level radioactive waste at the Midland County Courthouse, 500 North Loraine Street, Midland, Texas.  https://www.nrc.gov/pmns/mtg  It is anticipated that this hearing will be similar to the ASLB hearing in Albuquerque in January about the Holtec International license application.


Piketon, Ohio Residents File Suit Against DOE & Contractors

Residents living within four miles of the Department of Energy’s Portsmouth [Uranium] Gaseous Diffusion Plant filed the first class action lawsuit after Pike County officials closed Zahn’s Corner Middle School earlier this month after radioactive contamination was detected inside and outside of the school.  http://www.huntingtonnews.net/sites/default/files/n64/mcglone.pdf  Enriched uranium was detected inside the school, while an air monitor located near the school found neptunium-237.  The middle school is less than two miles from the Portsmouth site, with 300 students served by 25 staff members.

Jennifer Chandler, a Piketon village councilwoman, reported that in the past five years, five students have been diagnosed with cancer.  Unfortunately, three of them have died.  She wonders if there is a cancer cluster in her village.

The Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant began producing enriched uranium and weapons-grade uranium for nuclear weapons in 1954.  After the end of the Cold War, it began producing uranium for nuclear power reactors.  Since 2001, DOE and its contractors have been working to decontaminate and decommission the 3,777-acre site.

DOE conducts routine air monitoring.  In 2017, DOE detected trace amounts of neptunium and enriched uranium.  In 2018, DOE detected americium.  All three radionuclides are by-products of nuclear production.  The data was released in March 2019.

One of the neighbors, Elizabeth Lamerson, took matters into her own hands and contacted scientists at Northern Arizona University.  She began her own sample collection process and the University conducted a public interest study to investigate possible sources.  One source may be the construction of an on-site waste disposal facility for 2 million cubic yards of waste from decontamination and decommissioning work.

Last weekend, DOE Secretary Rick Perry sent “a world class team of certified health physicists” to do follow-up sampling.

Besides the DOE, other defendants include its contractors – Centrus Energy Corporation; United States Enrichment Corporation; Uranium Disposition Services, LLC; BWXT Conversion Services, LLC; Mid-America Conversion Services, LLC; Bechtel Jacobs Company, LLC; Lata/Parallax Portsmouth, LLC; and Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth, LLC.

The plaintiffs seek to represent the following individuals, including all property owners within a seven-mile radius of the Portsmouth Site; all residents and former residents with more than one year of residence, also within a seven-mile radius; and all current and former students at Zahn’s Corner Middle School from 1993 to the present, as well as their parents.

The plaintiffs are asking the U.S. District Court to certify the class; award damages for loss of use and enjoyment of their property; and punitive damages.  They are also asking for remediation of their property; a medical surveillance and medical monitoring program; and other procedures to settle the case.

To read a descriptive timeline, go to https://www.wsaz.com/content/news/Traces-of-carcinogen-found-in-air-monitor–509173091.html

1.  New Mexico has a uranium enrichment facility too.  It’s called URENCO USA, which is located at 275 Hwy. 176, approximately 4.5 miles east of Eunice, NM.  URENCO USA uses a different technology than the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant.  URENCO USA uses centrifuges to separate uranium.  https://www.nrc.gov/materials/fuel-cycle-fac/ur-enrichment.html

2.  URENCO USA submitted an application to renew and modify its groundwater discharge permit (DP-1481) to the New Mexico Environment Department.  URENCO USA proposes to discharge 19,717,000 gallons per day – yes, that is correct – nearly 20 million gallons per day – of industrial wastewater and stormwater to a treatment and disposal system.

3.  This is an area with lots of oil and gas extraction and other nuclear-related operations, including the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  Two projects to bring all of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste generated in nuclear power plants to this area are currently before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission right now.  They are:

a.    the Holtec International proposal, located on oil and gas extraction lands, 16 miles north of WIPP; and
b.    The Interim Storage Partners (formerly Waste Control Specialists, LLC) located on the New Mexico – Texas border, six miles east of Eunice, NM.

4.  On January 22, 2019, the Environment Department issued a Public Notice 1 stating that URENCO USA had received the application.  VIEW DISCHARGE PERMITS 
5.  The Environment Department permit writer is Jason Herman, at jason.herman@state.nm.us, at 505 827-2713.  Ask to be informed when the Public Notice 2 (PN-2) is issued.  PN-2 lets the public know that a draft permit is available to review and that there is an opportunity to ask for a public hearing.


Speeding Up LANL Plutonium Pit Production Is Very High Risk

An unclassified five-page executive summary released this week during the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability DC Days reveals risks and problems inherent in a renewed U.S. effort to reconstitute plutonium pit production capacity by 2030.  The government contractors from the Institute for Defense Analysis found that “[t]rying to increase production at [the Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)] by installing additional equipment and operating a second shift is very high risk.”  LANL is the only U.S. manufacturing location for plutonium pits, the triggers for nuclear weapons. IDA ExecSum UNC March2019

The Department of Energy (DOE) and its semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration have been trying to increase the number of pits manufactured at LANL since the end of the Cold War.  Such proposals include a Modern Pit Facility and a super Wal-Mart-sized Nuclear Facility as part of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project.  Neither was built.

The Institute cited these failures, and others across the nuclear weapons complex, as historical evidence of the difficulties DOE could encounter.  The Institute wrote, “Put more sharply, eventual success of the strategy to reconstitute plutonium pit production is far from certain.  DOE historical data make clear that difficulties are to be expected in a project of this scale and complexity.  [The Institute] examined past [DOE] programs and could find no historical precedent to support starting initial operations [ ] by 2030, much less full rate production.”

The Institute continued, “Of the few major projects that were successfully completed, all experienced substantial cost growth and schedule slippage; we could find no successful historical major project that both cost more than $700 million and achieved [initial operations] in less than 16 years.”

On May 10, 2018, the nuclear weapons bureaucracy announced that it supports the manufacture of 80 plutonium pits per year.  They chose two facilities.  One is the LANL Plutonium Facility for the manufacture of 30 pits per year.  The other is the uncompleted Mixed-Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.  Fifty pits per year could be manufactured once the mixed-oxide, or MOX, facility was reconstructed.

Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said, “This report makes clear that DOE is blowing smoke when it says that it will produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030 for new unneeded nuclear weapons.  After all, this is the gang that can’t shoot straight.  They need to slow down, do it right and for sure do it safely.  Above all the feds must concretely demonstrate a real need for expanded pit production before they fleece the American taxpayer of tens of billions of dollars.”https://nukewatch.org/

1.    CHACO CANYON – Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen is bringing forward a Resolution at the Tuesday, May 28th Board of County Commissioners’ meeting about Resolution No. 2019-____, A Resolution Urging Congress to Enact ‘The Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, S. 1079’ and Withdraw the Federal Lands Around Chaco Canyon from Further Mineral Development and Ensure the Protection of Chaco Ruins and the Greater Landscape Surrounding the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. https://www.santafecountynm.gov/committees/board_of_county_commissioners_bcc Please support Commissioner Hansen’s efforts by attending Tuesday’s meeting (on agenda around 3:30 or 4 pm) and/or call your commissioners and urge their support.

Here’s the Resolution and Memo. Resolution Memo – Chaco Canyon and Resolution – Chaco Canyon for CAO review 05-17-19

2.    CCNS has been trying to obtain a color paper copy of LANL’s application for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for over two weeks?  LANL used to provide color paper copies of their permit applications to the public.  They state they will provide a CD.  Well, a CD doesn’t do it for us.  Our shelves include the two volume 2014 NPDES permit application, which we refer to often in our work to protect the Rio Grande.

Having a color paper copy of the application, maps, and appendices is important in our preparation for a public hearing this fall about the discharges from LANL outfalls into the canyons that flow to the Rio Grande.

Please help us by emailing Peter.Maggiore@nnsa.doe.gov and saladen@lanl.gov and ask that LANL provide a color paper copy of the application, maps, and appendices TO CCNS.  Remind them that the LANL buget has increased from $2.2 billion/year to $2.7 billion/year under the Trump administration.  Surely they can find the funding to provide CCNS with a color paper copy of their complete application.  Thank you for your help!