Another Example of NMED’s Staff Support of WIPP Expansion

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is holding a virtual public hearing for a groundwater discharge permit that would allow the construction and use of a Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5, which are for the expansion of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  Allowing construction and use of those two new surface facilities directly supports the proposed plans of the Department of Energy (DOE) to excavate the proposed Shaft 5 and associated underground drifts. and  The Environment Department Secretary has not yet received the Shaft permit for review.  There is overwhelming public opposition to permitting it.

If Shaft 5 excavation were approved, it would facilitate DOE’s plans to double the size of WIPP, the underground mine for the disposal of plutonium-contaminated waste from nuclear weapons production.

Excavation of Shaft 5 would require a place to store salt from mining the 30-foot diameter hole into the waste facility that is 2,150 feet below ground surface.  Storm water runoff from the new Salt Cell would be collected in Salt Storage Pond, which has a capacity of 1,292,499 gallons, or approximately four acre feet, based on a 24-hour storm event of 5.84 inches.

The Stop Forever WIPP Coalition, formed to oppose WIPP expansion, consists of groups and individuals, including CCNS, Southwest Research and Information Center, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping, and the Southwest Alliance for a Safe Future.

WIPP is currently scheduled to end its disposal operations in 2024.  But DOE instead has plans to expand the WIPP underground for the disposal of other kinds of radioactive waste and extend the closing date to 2080 or beyond.  Hence, Forever WIPP.

Further, Congress has long recognized that WIPP is the first, but not only, site for the disposal of nuclear weapons waste.  But DOE has not taken any action to develop other repositories, instead leaving WIPP as the only site, which is also contrary to its July 1, 1981, Consultation and Cooperation Agreement, as amended in November 1984, August 1987, and June 1988, with the State of New Mexico.

The Environment Department’s virtual public hearing about the groundwater discharge permit begins on Tuesday, September 7th at noon., click on Environment Department Cabinet Secretary, then on Groundwater Discharge Permit DP-831, Administrative Appeal to Cabinet Secretary, or click here for key information:

Several groups, including CCNS, and individuals have testimony to eliminate the two surface facilities from the discharge permit.

The Stop Forever WIPP Coalition has prepared a sample public comment letter you can use to oppose the inclusion of Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5 in the groundwater discharge permit.  It is available at with a one-click comment option. Or you can download it here: f DP-831 (WIPP GWDP) Comment Ltr 8-26-21 Please modify to include your personal concerns.

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  1. CCNS could really use your financial support right now as we prepare testimony to oppose the proposed Salt Cell 5 and Salt Storage Pond 5 (to support proposed Shaft 5) at the Sept. 7th DP-831 groundwater discharge permit public hearing. It is a laborious technical process.  Your tax-deductible donation would be greatly appreciated!  Please go to to make your greatly needed contribution or mail it to:  CCNS, P. O. Box 31147, Santa Fe, NM  87594-1147.  Thank you!


  1. Th. Sept. 2 from 5 to 7 pm – Virtual DOE/WIPP Public Meeting regarding DOE’s proposal to Expand WIPP – this time, for Construction and Use of Hazardous Waste Disposal Units 11 and 12. This is DOE’s plan to “replace” the panels that were contaminated due to mismanagement (also known as “DOE’s mismanagement panels.”)  This is a required information meeting for DOE to conduct.  However, public comments made at the meeting will not be provided to the NM Environment Department.


         Monday, October 4th:  Public comments are due to NM Environment Department about the proposed construction and use of hazardous waste disposal Units 11 and 12.  For more information see and   CCNS will prepare talking points and sample public comments you can use.  Stay tuned!



  1. Mon. Sept. 20 – Virtual NM Interim Legislative Radioactive & Hazardous Materials Committee meeting in Gallup, NM. Tina Cordova, of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC), the “Trinity Downwinders,” has been asked to present.  More information will be posted here prior to the meeting:

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