Mission

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

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

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

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

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Our Work

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Current Activities

Livestreamed Nuclear Safety Board Hearing on February 21st in Albuquerque

Complete oversight of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board is no longer allowed under the revised Department of Energy Order 140.1.  The Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building, or RLUOB, one of the facilities of the CMRR Project, handles weapons grade plutonium.  It is designated as a Hazard Category 3 facility.  The Department of Energy (DOE) Order eliminates all Hazard Category 3 facilities from the Board’s purview.

Oversight of the CMRR Project is one of the concerns that will be discussed at the Board’s Thursday, February 21st public hearing from 5:30 pm to 9 pm Mountain time at the Albuquerque Convention Center.  It will be live streamed from the Board’s website at dnfsb.gov.  A link will be posted there on the day of the hearing.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/content/federal-register-notice-5

Please use the sample public comment letter f DOE O 140.1 sample comment ltr 2-14-19 to submit your comments to hearing@dnfsb.gov

This is the Board’s third public hearing about DOE Order 140.1.  It is being held in New Mexico at the request of Tewa Women United and Honor Our Pueblo Existence, both based in the Espanola Valley, downwind of LANL.  To view the previous hearings, visit dnfsb.gov/public-hearings-meetings.

The Board invites you to attend the hearing and provide public comments from 7:15 to 8:50 p.m.  You can pre-register to speak by emailing hearing@dnfsb.gov by February 19th.

Production of plutonium pits, the triggers for nuclear weapons, is expected to resume at Los Alamos National Laboratory, with a goal of making as many as 80 pits a year by 2030. This is a file photo of past work on a pit at LANL through an airtight glovebox. Courtesy LANL) moswald@abqjournal.com

 

The Board invited its Technical Director, Chris Roscetti; as well as Todd Shrader, the manager of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant; Jeffery Harrell, the Sandia Field Office manager; Doug Hintze, the Los Alamos clean-up manager; and William (Steve) Goodrum, the Los Alamos nuclear weapons program manager, to testify.

The purpose of the CMRR Project has always been to replace the Cold War-era Chemistry and Metallurgy Research building because of on-going safety and seismic issues.  In the mid-2000s, DOE proposed the CMRR Project, which consisted of two parts.  One part is the RLUOB, which was constructed and does analytical chemistry and materials characterization of the plutonium cores, or pits, for nuclear weapons manufactured at LANL.  It does not meet the seismic requirements of a Hazard Category 3 facility.

The second part was a Super Wal-Mart-sized Nuclear Facility, which was defeated through citizen action in New Mexico and across the country.  In 2014, it was officially canceled.

Since then, DOE gave itself permission to increase the amount of plutonium allowed in the RLUOB from 8.4 grams to 400 grams, which increased its rating to a Hazard Category 3 facility.  https://nuclearactive.org/doe-gives-itself-permission-to-increase-plutonium-in-cmrr-without-required-nepa-analysis/  And now, DOE has issued DOE 140.1 to eliminate the Board’s oversight of it.

To learn more, please check out previous Updates, with links to important documents, at https://nuclearactive.org/chairman-tries-to-abolish-the-defense-nuclear-facilities-safety-board/ ; http://nuclearactive.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/2018-100-028-NA-1-Welcome-Letter-ARCHIVE.pdf ; http://nuclearactive.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/DOE-O-140.1-Interface-with-the-Defense-Nuclear-Facilities-Safety-Board.pdf ; https://nuclearactive.org/dnfsb-public-hearing-about-doe-interface-on-august-28th/ ; http://nuclearactive.org/santa-fe-county-commissioners-call-for-suspension-of-doe-order-140-1/ ; https://nuclearactive.org/ana-opposes-new-doe-order/ ; http://nuclearactive.org/doe-must-hold-hearings-in-new-mexico-about-order-140-1/ ; http://nuclearactive.org/safety-board-holds-nov-28-live-streamed-public-hearing/http://nuclearactive.org/public-comments-at-safety-board-hearing-say-it-all/  ; and http://nuclearactive.org/feb-21-safety-board-public-hrg-livestreamed-from-abq/

Also see September 27, 2018 comments submitted to the Board by Nuclear Watch New Mexico at https://nukewatch.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/DNFSB-NWNM-comments-on-DOE-Order-140.1.pdf


Did you know about these upcoming events?

1.    Friday, February 15 – The Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment will host “Uranium Workers’ Day” at the NM Legislature.  The press conference will begin at 11 am in the Rotunda.  https://swuraniumimpacts.org/uranium-workers-day-feb-15th/
2.    Sunday, March 17th, 2019 Benefit Fundraiser for the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, NM, from 1 to 5 pm.  Music, dancing, food, silent auction, door prizes.  Tickets will be available soon! Flyer: TBDC benefit poster  Stay tuned! https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/
3.  Saturday, April 6th, the Trinity Site, on the White Sands Missile Range, is open to the public from 8 am to 2 pm.  The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium will hold two peaceful demonstrations – one at the Tularosa Gate; the other at the Stallion Gate, near San Antonio.  Stay tuned for more details.  https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/
 

Feb. 21 Safety Board Public Hrg Livestreamed from ABQ

The Department of Energy Order 140.1 will be the topic for the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board public hearing during the evening of Thursday, February 21st, in Albuquerque.  The Department of Energy (DOE) order restricts the Board’s access to personnel, facilities, and documents for some of the most dangerous nuclear weapons facilities located across the country.  http://nuclearactive.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/DOE-O-140.1-Interface-with-the-Defense-Nuclear-Facilities-Safety-Board.pdf

The restrictions are contrary to congressional legislation that established the Safety Board in 1988.  The Board’s 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 Albuquerque from 5:30 pm to 9 pm Mountain Time, at the Albuquerque Convention Center, 401 Second Street, Northwest.  It will be live streamed from the Board’s website at dnfsb.gov.  A link will be posted there on the day of the hearing.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/public-hearings-meetings/february-21-public-hearing

Witnesses include four managers from the three DOE sites in New Mexico, which are Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  The scheduled witnesses are:  Todd Shrader, the WIPP manager; Jeffery Harrell, the Sandia Field Office manager; Doug Hintze, the Los Alamos clean-up manager; and William (Steve) Goodrum, the Los Alamos nuclear weapons program manager.  The Board’s Technical Director, Chris Roscetti, will also testify.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/meeting/Albuquerque%20Hearing%20Agenda_1.pdf

The Board invites you to attend the hearing and participate in the public comment portion from 7:15 to 8:50 p.m.  If you would like to speak, please pre-register by emailing your request by February 19th to hearing@dnfsb.gov.

This hearing is the third about the DOE Order.  To view the previous hearings on August 28, 2018 and November 28, 2018, visit dnfsb.gov/public-hearings-meetings.

To learn more, please check out previous Updates, with links to important documents, at https://nuclearactive.org/chairman-tries-to-abolish-the-defense-nuclear-facilities-safety-board/ ; http://nuclearactive.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/2018-100-028-NA-1-Welcome-Letter-ARCHIVE.pdf ; https://nuclearactive.org/dnfsb-public-hearing-about-doe-interface-on-august-28th/ ; http://nuclearactive.org/santa-fe-county-commissioners-call-for-suspension-of-doe-order-140-1/ ; https://nuclearactive.org/ana-opposes-new-doe-order/ ; http://nuclearactive.org/doe-must-hold-hearings-in-new-mexico-about-order-140-1/ ; http://nuclearactive.org/safety-board-holds-nov-28-live-streamed-public-hearing/ ; and  http://nuclearactive.org/public-comments-at-safety-board-hearing-say-it-all/   Also see September 27, 2018 comments submitted to the Board by Nuclear Watch New Mexico at https://nukewatch.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/DNFSB-NWNM-comments-on-DOE-Order-140.1.pdf

The order, entitled, “Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board,” was issued last May, without public notice and opportunity to comment.

One issue of particular concern is the Board’s oversight of both worker and public health and safety.  The new Order eviscerates the Board’s oversight to only public health and safety outside a facility’s boundary.

Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen, and former CCNS Board Chair, encouraged the public’s participation at this important nuclear safety hearing.  Hansen said, “The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board is an important board that works to keep workers, the public, and the environment safe from Los Alamos and their completely unstable safety record.  The Trump administration is trying to reduce the Board’s oversight with Order 140.1.  Don’t let them take away the Board’s critical oversight.  We need the Board to be stronger, not weaker.   Please make the time to attend and participate in this important hearing.  Everybody counts!”  https://www.santafecountynm.gov/county_commissioners/anna_hansen


Did you know about these upcoming events?

1.    Friday, February 15 – The Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment will host “Uranium Workers’ Day” at the NM Legislature.  The press conference will begin at 11 am in the Rotunda.  https://swuraniumimpacts.org/uranium-workers-day-feb-15th/

2.    Sunday, March 17th, 2019 Benefit Fundraiser for the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, NM, from 1 to 5 pm.  Music, dancing, food, silent auction, door prizes.  Tickets will be available soon!  Stay tuned! https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/

3.  Saturday, April 6th, the Trinity Site, on the White Sands Missile Range, is open to the public from 8 am to 2 pm.  The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium will hold two peaceful demonstrations – one at the Tularosa Gate; the other at the Stallion Gate, near San Antonio.  Stay tuned for more details.  https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/

 

New Holtec Information from Albuquerque Hearing Last Week

Holtec International wants to open the world’s largest “interim” nuclear waste dump for one of the most deadly materials on Earth – high-level radioactive waste – in southeast New Mexico.  The proposed site is located 16 miles northeast of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.  But Holtec has to obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), among other approvals.

Last week, the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board held a hearing in Albuquerque with arguments from the twelve parties opposing the application, including two industry groups, and from Holtec and the NRC staff.  To view the hearing, go to https://saveleacounty.net/ and to read the hearing transcript, go to https://adams.nrc.gov:4443/ehd/

Some statements from Holtec’s lawyers contradicted information the company previously provided.

For example, Holtec’s license application states the lethal radioactive waste would be owned by either the Department of Energy (DOE) or the nuclear utility companies that made it.  Nevertheless, during the second day of the hearing Holtec’s lawyer, Jay Silberg, admitted that under current law DOE cannot take title and ownership of the waste at an interim site.

In response, Diane Curran, one of the attorneys representing Beyond Nuclear, a Takoma Park, Maryland non-governmental organization opposing the license application, said, “We should not even have to argue this hypothetical case.  We call on the licensing board to dismiss the application.”  http://www.beyondnuclear.org/centralized-storage/

The waste generated by commercial nuclear power plants located mostly in the eastern U.S. would have to be transported across the country by rail, barge and truck.  The deadly containers would pass through nearly 90 percent of the U.S. congressional districts.  This waste can cause death in minutes if unshielded, and remains radioactive for literally millions of years.

Later, Silberg said that Holtec could bring the deadly waste to New Mexico if the nuclear power plant limited liability corporations retained title to the waste.  The companies would have to pay to transport the waste and remain economically and legally liable until DOE took title and shipped the waste to a permanent repository.  This scenario raises all sorts of questions, such as, who will fund the operations at the dump and its closure when the waste is removed – which may never happen – thus creating a de facto permanent dump.  https://www.gao.gov/key_issues/disposal_of_highlevel_nuclear_waste/issue_summary  [“Authorization: The Administration would require new legislative authority for interim storage because provisions in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act that authorized interim storage have either expired or are unusable because they were tied to milestones in the development of a repository at Yucca Mountain that have not been met.”]

Terry Lodge, an attorney representing six organizations near power plants and the Nuclear Issues Study Group based in Albuquerque that oppose the license, said, “The Holtec proposal is a corporate welfare trough that will make the nuclear waste problem in this country worse, putting millions of people along transport routes at unnecessary risk.”  https://www.facebook.com/NuclearIssuesStudyGroup/

The three judge NRC panel will decide in early April which of the parties may continue in the licensing process.

This summer the NRC plans to release a draft environmental impact statement for public comment.  Stay tuned!  Get involved!


About the number of environmental bills before the New Mexico Legislature?


1.    For instance, House Bill 206 – The Environmental Review Act “requires a state agency to conduct an ‘environmental assessment’ for a project if preliminary evaluation shows the project could have significant impact on the environment. The bill requires agencies to prepare a more detailed ‘environmental impact statement’ if the assessment shows the project is likely to have a significant environmental impact. Projects subject to review are those undertaken by public agencies (including state agencies, higher education institutions, counties, and municipalities), by an applicant for a ‘lease, permit, license, certificate or other entitlement’ issued by the state, or proposed on state land or land subject to state jurisdiction. HB206 provides for public comment periods, rulemaking authority to implement the legislation, and judicial review.”  1/18/19 Fiscal Impact Report at https://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/19%20Regular/firs/HB0206.PDF

2.  CCNS recommends that you become familiar with the New Mexico legislature website at https://www.nmlegis.gov/  There you can find the names and contact information for your legislators.  Please contact them about your concerns and recommendations about pending bills. You can also learn about when the House and Senate will reconvene, review the House and Senate agendas for each day and watch the committee hearings.

 

CCNS Sues to Stop WIPP Expansion

This week, CCNS filed an appeal in the New Mexico Court of Appeals to overturn the New Mexico Environment Department approval of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) Disposal Volume permit modification, which was signed on December 21, 2018.  The modification would allow expansion of WIPP’s capacity by approximately thirty percent.  It was approved over the repeated opposition of many New Mexico non-governmental organizations.  Southwest Research and Information Center and Nuclear Watch New Mexico also filed an appeal last week.  http://nuclearactive.org/environment-department-approves-30-percent-wipp-expansion/     

Beginning last January, the Martinez Administration did everything in they could to ensure the proposed expansion was approved before leaving office on December 31st.  In late October, the Environment Department held a rushed three-day public hearing in Carlsbad, with a hurried post-hearing briefing schedule.  The Environment Department, and the Department of Energy and its contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, a limited liability corporation, supported the proposed expansion.  http://nuclearactive.org/thwarting-public-process-environment-department-rushes-ahead-to-hearing/ and http://nuclearactive.org/hearing-begins-oct-23rd-on-proposed-major-wipp-expansion/

The Environment Department receives federal financial assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its permitting programs.  As a result, it must comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and EPA’s implementing regulations.  To keep the funding, the Department cannot discriminate.

CCNS participated in the hearing and challenged the Department’s on-going discriminatory permitting process and on-going patterns and practices of denying adequate accommodations for limited English proficient Spanish-speaking residents.

New Mexico is one of the few states in the U.S. where distinct populations constitute the majority of the population.  In New Mexico, nearly 36 percent of the population speaks a language other than English in the home.  Under the Civil Rights Act, accommodations must be made.

The Department did little to accommodate.  The entire amount of information available in Spanish for the limited English proficient community was two public notices – the notice that the draft permit was available for review and comment, and the hearing notice.  The public notices excluded information that translators would be available at the hearing, thus preventing meaningful participation for those needing accommodations.  Limiting the permitting process almost entirely to English created disparate effects or impacts for New Mexico communities located near the WIPP site and along the transportation routes.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, “Our thirty years of experience in the permitting process shows that when people are not provided with the necessary accommodations to fully participate as required by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, people and communities are harmed.  People are not informed about the permitting processes that allow polluters to expand operations until after the decision has been made.  We are hopeful that the Lujan Grisham Administration will take a critical look at the decision to approve the WIPP expansion modification.”


1.    Objections from many organizations to the rushed WIPP permit process and the expansion modification are available at:

http://sric.org/nuclear/docs/2018_08_20_Tongate_extension.pdf and

http://sric.org/nuclear/docs/2018_09_20_Group-hearing-letter.pdf

 

  1. The New Mexico Environment Department’s information about the modification are available at:

https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/

 

  1.     Other documents related to modification are available at:

http://sric.org/nuclear/wipp_permit.php

 

NRC Holds Holtec Hearing in Albuquerque on January 23rd for the World’s Largest Proposed Radioactive Waste Dump

 

  • New Hearing Location: State Bar of New Mexico
  • A call-in number to listen to the hearing
  • Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 3:30 pm Press Conference at State Bar

Next Wednesday, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will hold a pre-hearing about the standing and sufficiency of the hearing requests made by the Parties challenging Holtec International’s application for a consolidated interim storage facility for commercial high-level radioactive waste in southeast New Mexico.  http://nuclearactive.org/nrc-holds-holtec-hearing-in-albuquerque-on-january-23rd/

Listen-only, call-in numbers have been provided by the ASLB, so those unable to attend in person can still take in the proceedings:  the telephone number is 1-888-790-1895, and the passcode is 5046496.

The proposed dump would be the world’s largest.  It would be 2.5 times larger than the proposed Yucca Mountain dump in Nevada; and four times larger than the proposed Private Fuel Storage facility at Skull Valley in Utah.

The public hearing will begin at 9 am on Wednesday, January 23rd, and, will continue as necessary, on Thursday, January 24th.  Because of the government shutdown, the hearing will be held at a new location – at the State Bar of New Mexico, 5121 Masthead Street, Northeast, in Albuquerque.  https://www.nmbar.org/nmstatebar/Contact_Us/Nmstatebar/About_Us/Contact_Us.aspx?hkey=48be8d52-5c8a-4e72-a10a-f429a08ffaa5

Although no opportunity for public comment will be provided, please attend to support those challenging the license application.  https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/aslbp/

The Parties challenging the application include environmental and environmental justice organizations from California, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Texas, and Washington, DC.  Together the groups filed over 40 objections, or contentions, in NRC speak.  The objections include challenging the NRC for illegally considering the license application.  A summary of proceedings is available at http://www.beyondnuclear.org/centralized-storage/2019/1/24/summary-of-holtecelea-cisf-licensing-application-proceeding.html

Beyond Nuclear, a Washington, DC non-governmental organization, and other Parties argue that the federal Nuclear Waste Policy Act does not allow the U.S. Department of Energy to take title, or ownership, to the waste at a privately owned and operated interim storage facility, such as Holtec.  This is only allowed at a permanent repository, which is not available.

The Board will hear oral argument from the attorneys for the Parties.  The Board has established the following order:  counsel for Beyond Nuclear http://www.beyondnuclear.org/ ; counsel for the Sierra Club http://www.riograndesierraclub.org/holtec/ ;  counsel for Alliance for Environmental Strategies http://nonuclearwasteaqui.org/ ; counsel for seven groups:  Don’t Waste Michigan https://dwmi.homestead.com/ , Citizens’ Environmental Coalition http://cechouston.org/ , Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination http://www.caccmi.org/ , Nuclear Energy Information Service https://neis.org/ , Public Citizen, Inc. https://www.citizen.org/ , San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace https://mothersforpeace.org/ , and Albuquerque-based Nuclear Issues Study Group https://abqpeaceandjustice.org/index.php/about/pajola/item/266-nuclear-issue-study-group ; counsel for NAC International, Inc., a direct competitor of Holtec https://www.nacintl.com/ ; counsel for Fasken Land and Minerals, http://www.mineralholders.com/texas/midland/fasken-land-minerals/7257465 and Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owners; counsel for Holtec International https://holtecinternational.com/ ; and counsel for the NRC Staff.  https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1901/ML19010A157.pdf

The afternoon before the hearing, on Tuesday, January 22nd, beginning at 3:30 pm, representatives from the groups and their attorneys will hold a press conference at the State Bar of New Mexico.  The public is invited to attend.  http://www.beyondnuclear.org/centralized-storage/2019/1/24/summary-of-holtecelea-cisf-licensing-application-proceeding.html

Speakers from New Mexico include Rose Gardner and Noel Marquez, of the Alliance for Environmental Strategies, and their lawyer, Nancy Simmons.  Leona Morgan, of the Nuclear Issues Study Group, based in Albuquerque, which is part of a seven-group coalition, will speak along with the coalition’s lawyer, Terry Lodge, of Toledo, Ohio.

Other speakers include lawyers Diane Curran and Mindy Goldstein, who are representing Beyond Nuclear; and Wally Taylor, representing the Sierra Club’s Nuclear-Free Campaign.

The proposed Holtec site is located half way between Carlsbad and Hobbs, along U.S. 62/180, 15 miles north of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

If approved, barges, trains, and trucks would transport high-level radioactive waste from commercial nuclear power reactors across the country to converge in southeast NM.  Transportation maps are available at:  https://www.nirs.org/category/nuclear-waste-transport-maps-statistics/

The Board reserved time for comments from a representative of each of the following local government petitioners who support the dump:  Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance http://www.eddyleaenergyalliance.com/ ; the City of Carlsbad http://www.cityofcarlsbadnm.com/ ; Lea County https://www.leacounty.net/ ; Eddy County https://www.co.eddy.nm.us/ ; and the City of Hobbs https://www.hobbsnm.org .


…how to participate in the 60-day New Mexico Legislature?

1.  CCNS recommends that you become familiar with the New Mexico legislature website at https://www.nmlegis.gov/
You can find the names and contact information for your legislators.  Please contact them about your concerns and recommendations about pending bills.
You can learn about when the House and Senate will reconvene.

You can read the House and Senate agendas for each day and watch the committee hearings.

2.  There are a number of groups providing information about the legislative session.  You can sign up for alerts.
Conservation Voters New Mexico at https://www.cvnm.org/

Retake Our Democracy at https://retakeourdemocracy.org/
Please let us know if you have recommendations for other groups – we’ll post them next week.

 

 

Will DOE’s Surplus Plutonium End Up in New Mexico?

The Department of Energy (DOE) has 61.5 metric tons of what it calls “surplus” nuclear weapons-grade plutonium.  Approximately 13 metric tons is currently stored in the old K-Reactor building at the DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina.  It can stay there until a technically sound and publicly accepted plan is developed and implemented.  But the public has to demand that better approach.  Many groups have stated that the next step

should be an environmental impact statement process to discuss the reasonable alternatives.

The previous plan was to mix the plutonium with uranium to create mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel for nuclear power plants.  But DOE’s construction of a MOX facility was decades behind schedule and tens of billions of dollars over budget.  The Obama administration proposed terminating it.  South Carolina politicians resisted, so for several years Congress funded the construction.

Congress did allow DOE to terminate the MOX facility, which it did in 2018.  http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/srs_watch_on_mox_termination_letter_october_12_2018.pdf

Lawsuits were filed by South Carolina to keep the construction going.  Last June, a federal district judge granted South Carolina’s request for a preliminary injunction to continue construction.  But on January 8th, a federal appeals court in Virginia issued a final, strongly worded ruling affirming the DOE’s termination of the boondoggled MOX project.  http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/srs_watch_on_appeal_ct_mox_termination_ruling_january_8_2019.pdf

Tom Clements, Director of Savannah River Site Watch, said, “This ruling by the appellate court is thankfully one of the very last nails in the coffin of the problem-plagued MOX project.  Now, all termination activities at the MOX project must continue apace and the taxpayer must be relieved of the burden the mismanaged project caused.”  http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/srs_watch_news_on_mox_reactor_photos_jan_4_2019.pdf

DOE must have a new plan.  If the surplus plutonium does not stay in South Carolina, it appears DOE will target New Mexico.

DOE will ship some of the surplus plutonium to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for disposal.  The recently approved permit modification to increase WIPP’s capacity would allow for more surplus plutonium.  http://nuclearactive.org/environment-department-approves-30-percent-wipp-expansion/

In response to other South Carolina litigation, DOE also plans to ship some of the surplus plutonium, approximately one metric ton, from South Carolina to the Device Assembly Facility (DAF) at the Nevada Test Site.  But the State of Nevada has sued to prevent such shipments.  http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/savannah_river_site_watch__news_on_plutonium_shipment_court_hearings_jan_7_2019.pdf

Eventually, DOE plans for that surplus plutonium to be shipped to Los Alamos National Laboratory for use in nuclear weapons.  http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/savannah_river_site_watch__news_on_plutonium_shipment_court_hearings_jan_7_2019.pdf

These are yet additional proposed assaults on New Mexico.  However, since the public is opposed to those plans, the New Mexico state government and the congressional delegation can demand new and better plans.  DOE has made a mess.  New Mexico has and is doing its part.  New Mexico should not be targeted for more surplus plutonium.


DID YOU KNOW?

1.    Due to the government shutdown, the January 23 – 24, 2019 NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing about the Holtec license application will be moved to a new location.  Please stay tuned to CCNS.  We’ll let you know as soon as we know.  For more information about the NRC Holtec hearing, http://nuclearactive.org/nrc-holds-holtec-hearing-in-albuquerque-on-january-23rd/

2.    On Monday, January 7, 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed James Kenney as Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department.  Read Laura Paskus interview with him at http://nmpoliticalreport.com/2019/01/10/qa-with-incoming-nmed-head-a-commitment-to-go-big-on-environmental-issues/?mc_cid=c6288d5b57&mc_eid=797c9d1c41

3.     It’s Time to March Again!

On Saturday, January 19th at 11 am at the Roundhouse, the 2019 Northern New Mexico Women’s March in Santa Fe will march to the Santa Fe Plaza where a line-up of inspiring speakers and performers will share their wisdom and experiences from 12pm – 2pm. Check out the Facebook event page here.
The Northern New Mexico Women’s March in Santa Fe is being organized by a coalition of gender justice activists, organizations and community members, which is being planned in accordance with the Guiding Vision found at NewMexicoWomen.Org here.
To our friends and allies in Albuquerque and central New Mexico, please join our sister March in Albuquerque on Sunday, January 20th! Check out their Facebook event page here.
 

NRC Holds Holtec Hearing in Albuquerque on January 23rd

In less than three weeks, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will hold a pre-hearing about the standing and the sufficiency of the hearing requests from the Parties concerning Holtec International’s application for a consolidated interim storage facility for commercial high-level radioactive waste in southeast New Mexico.  The public hearing will begin at 9 am on Wednesday, January 23rd, and, as necessary, on Thursday, January 24th, in the sixth floor courtroom at the United States Historic Courthouse, located at 421 Gold Avenue, Southwest, in Albuquerque.  No opportunity for public comment will be provided.  https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/aslbp/

The Parties will argue they have standing and their intervention petitions allow them to participate in the NRC process about Holtec’s application for a 40-year license to store 8,680 metric tons of commercial spent nuclear fuel in a vertical configuration.  https://www.nrc.gov/waste/spent-fuel-storage/cis/holtec-international.html

Holtec proposes 19 expansion phases over a 20-year period for a total of approximately 10,000 canisters, or about 100,000 metric tons.  About 80,000 metric tons of waste currently exists at nuclear reactor sites.  Holtec also proposes to bring all future waste.

The proposed site is located 15 miles north of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant site, and half way between Carlsbad and Hobbs, along U.S. 180.

The Board will hear oral argument from the attorneys for the Parties.  The Board has established the following order:  counsel for Beyond Nuclear http://www.beyondnuclear.org/ ; counsel for the Sierra Club http://www.riograndesierraclub.org/holtec/ ;  counsel for Alliance for Environmental Strategies http://nonuclearwasteaqui.org/ ; counsel for seven groups:  Don’t Waste Michigan https://dwmi.homestead.com/ , Citizens’ Environmental Coalition http://cechouston.org/ , Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination http://www.caccmi.org/ , Nuclear Energy Information Service https://neis.org/ , Public Citizen, Inc. https://www.citizen.org/ , San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace https://mothersforpeace.org/ , and Albuquerque-based Nuclear Issues Study Group https://abqpeaceandjustice.org/index.php/about/pajola/item/266-nuclear-issue-study-group ; counsel for NAC International, Inc., a direct competitor of Holtec https://www.nacintl.com/ ; counsel for Fasken Land and Minerals, http://www.mineralholders.com/texas/midland/fasken-land-minerals/7257465 and Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owners; counsel for Holtec International https://holtecinternational.com/ ; and counsel for the NRC Staff.

Fasken Land and Minerals is a fracking driller with holdings close to the Holtec site.  The Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owners formed in response to the consolidated interim storage facilities proposed by the privately owned Holtec, and nearby Waste Control Specialists, now known as Interim Storage Partners.  Fasken and the Royalty Owners filed a motion to dismiss based on the fact that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act does not recognize privately owned consolidated interim storage sites.

The Board will reserve time for comments from a representative from each of the following local government petitioners:  Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance http://www.eddyleaenergyalliance.com/ ; the City of Carlsbad http://www.cityofcarlsbadnm.com/ ; Lea County https://www.leacounty.net/ ; Eddy County https://www.co.eddy.nm.us/ ; and the City of Hobbs https://www.hobbsnm.org .

Please mark your calendars for this important hearing and support the interveners.


There are two privately held corporations applying for NRC licenses for consolidated interim storage facilities (CISF) for high-level commercial radioactive waste. 

1.  Holtec International in southeast New Mexico at https://www.nrc.gov/site-help/search.html?q=holtec+in+adams&site=allSites#gsc.tab=0&gsc.q=holtec%20in%20adams&gsc.page=1

2.  Interim Storage Partners (ISP) in west Texas, five miles east of Eunice, New Mexico at

1.  Holtec International in southeast New Mexico at https://www.nrc.gov/site-help/search.html?q=holtec+in+adams&site=allSites#gsc.tab=0&gsc.q=holtec%20in%20adams&gsc.page=1

2.  Interim Storage Partners (ISP) in west Texas, five miles east of Eunice, New Mexico at https://www.nrc.gov/site-help/search.html?q=holtec+in+adams&site=allSites#gsc.tab=0&gsc.q=WCS%20interim%20storage%20partners%20in%20adams&gsc.sort=

 

Environment Department Approves 30 Percent WIPP Expansion

Last Friday, before a four-day holiday weekend, the Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department, Butch Tongate, approved the permit modification request by the Department of Energy (DOE) to expand by thirty percent the waste capacity of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  The haste to finalize the permit modification request prior to the end of the Martinez Administration is evident in the number of errors in the Secretary’s Order Approving Draft Permit. The Parties to the permit modification process, which included a three-day public hearing in Carlsbad, will now have thirty-days to appeal the Secretary’s decision to the New Mexico Court of Appeals. HWB 18-19 (P) Secretarys Order Approving Draft Permit

In January, 2018, DOE and its contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, a limited liability corporation, proposed to modify the Environment Department’s hazardous waste permit to allow a new way to count the amount of waste disposed of at WIPP, in violation of federal law and the state’s legal authorities.  https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/, scroll down to “WIPP News 2018.”

In 1992, Congress passed the Land Withdrawal Act, which allows for the disposal of up to 6.2 million cubic feet of transuranic, or plutonium-contaminated, radioactive and hazardous waste generated from nuclear weapons research, development, and manufacturing.

The Environment Department is charged with protecting public health and the environment.  In 1999, the Environment Department included the 6.2 million cubic feet capacity in the initial hazardous waste permit.  The permit continued previous DOE practice of the volume being counted as the gross internal volume of the outermost container.  For example, putting containers in larger overpacks results in counting the outer container volume, which, among other things, includes air contaminated with wastes in the outer container.

Now, due to nearly two decades of mismanagement of the waste capacity in which more than 700,000 cubic feet of underground space was not used, DOE and its contractor ginned up a new definition, a “Land Withdrawal Act transuranic, or TRU, waste limit.”  The new definition allows DOE to count the volume of the waste inside the containers.  Instead of counting the overpack volume, the Environment Department decision allows DOE to count the volume as it desires.

Under the federal act and the permit, no later than the time when 6.2 million cubic feet of waste has been buried, WIPP must close.  Under the approved modification, the Environment Department has given up its regulatory authority to DOE to say when WIPP must be closed.

Don Hancock, of Southwest Research and Information Center, and one of the Parties to the negotiations and hearing, said, “The Final Order violates federal law, the New Mexico-DOE Consultation and Cooperation Agreement, decades of practice, and the permit record. The Order must not be implemented.”  http://www.sric.org/

 

NM NGOs Ask Environment Dept. to Strengthen Public Policies

This week, 23 New Mexico non-governmental organizations (NGOs) submitted a letter to the New Mexico Environment Department requesting the agency take specific steps to strengthen its overall public outreach and its engagement with people who do not speak English proficiently – about 10 percent of the population.  18-12-17-SecondRequest-CommunityLetter-NMED_NS_CARD_1707015

In February, the Department released three policies in response to an Informal Resolution Agreement reached between the Environment Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), External Civil Rights Compliance Office.  The January 2017, Informal Resolution Agreement responded to a Title VI civil rights complaint filed in 2002 by Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (CARD) about the Department’s discriminatory practices during the hazardous waste permit hearing for Triassic Park, a proposed dump located east of Roswell.  https://nuclearactive.org/epa-reaches-informal-resolution-of-14-year-old-civil-rights-complaint-against-nmed/

NMED regulates hazardous waste facilities, and issues permits allowing the discharge of pollutants into groundwater, among other regulatory activities.  The NGOs also asked for a meeting with the Department, soon after the Lujan Grisham Administration takes office, to discuss their requests.

The community groups also acknowledged the Department had made important improvements to public processes since the Informal Resolution Agreement was reached.  Based on the groups’ experience, however, these additional improvements are necessary to provide a meaningful opportunity to engage in the Department’s public processes for all New Mexicans.

The letter requests the Department to make specific changes to the public participation and limited English proficiency policies.  The policies were initially released without any public input, despite the fact the Department was asked by community organizations to solicit public input before they were released.  The Department has since invited public input as part of an annual review process.

In the letter, the community groups provided specific recommendations for how the polices can be improved to ensure that all New Mexicans have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the Department’s public processes as required by law.  The recommendations include examples from recent public hearings, including the groundwater discharge permit for Waste Control Specialists, a waste dump located in Texas, allowing discharges into New Mexico; the proposed modification of the hazardous waste permit for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant; and two groundwater discharge permits for Los Alamos National Laboratory.

These recommendations are particularly important given that over 35 percent of the population speaks a language other than English at home.  Many of the communities most impacted by polluting industries have an even higher proportion of people with limited English proficiency.

The requests include providing the public with an opportunity to give input about the Public Involvement Plans that are formulated by the Department before a draft permit is issued for public comment.  The request seeks to ensure that the Department’s public engagement strategy is appropriate for the affected communities by requiring more communication with community leaders before the permitting process begins.  Other requests include:

  • Clearly define what “vital” documents will be translated in permitting processes, including draft permits or summaries of draft permits and fact sheets;
  • State clearly how people who do not speak English proficiently can access an interpreter before, during, and after public hearings processes;
  • Include in the policies and in training of Department staff that the public should be involved early and often throughout the public engagement process, as recommended by EPA guidance;
  • Consult and work with community groups throughout permitting processes, in accordance with EPA guidance;
  • Affirmatively work to address low turn-out of people who do not speak English proficiently, in accordance with EPA guidance;
  • Budget for adequate interpretation and translation at an agency level; and
  • Apply the policies to NMED contractors and subcontractors.

The letter was drafted as part of the legal representation of CARD by Nicole Sanchez, clinical law student at the University of New Mexico Natural Resources and Environmental Law Clinic, working under the supervision of Professor Gabe Pacyniak, together with Marianne Engelman-Lado, who is of counsel with the Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC).  http://lawschool.unm.edu/clinic/sections/natural-resources-and-environmental-law-clinic.html and https://prrac.org/

The 23 community organizations that signed onto the letter are: Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, Alliance for Environmental Strategies (AFES), Amigos Bravos, Citizen Action New Mexico, Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (CARD), Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), Concerned Citizens for Wagon Mound and Mora County, Earthjustice, Gila Resources Information Project (GRIP), Los Jardines Institute, Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE), New Mexico Environmental Law Center, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, Partnership for Earth Spirituality (PES), Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Rio Grande Waterkeeper, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition (SEED), Tewa Women United, Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC), Western Environmental Law Center and Wild Earth Guardians.

 

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.