CCNS Asks Why LANL’s Area G Waste Handling Lacks Proper Safety Documents

On Wednesday, Chris Roscetti, the Technical Director for the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, raised more red flags about the fact that Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) handles, treats and stores radioactive and hazardous waste without the proper paperwork in place.  He was speaking during a virtual meeting of the Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Board.   Chris Rosetti Bio – Bio  and  PowerPoint in PDF form – DNSFBpowerpoint

Some paperwork has remained unresolved for years.  For example, since at least 2016, LANL does not have compliant safety documents for nuclear facilities, such as the Area G dump.  These documents, called documented safety analysis, serve to identify and analyze the hazards associated with the work.  Nuclear facilities are required to respond to the analyses in ways that will protect workers, the public and the environment.  Some elements of safety documents include fire protection calculations, computer modeling for the dispersion of contaminants, and analyses of the efficiency of the operating controls to prevent releases.  The Area G safety documents have languished since 2016 – even though LANL continues to handle, treat, and store plutonium-contaminated and hazardous waste there.

Roscetti said there are about 3,100 drums containing radioactive and hazardous waste sitting above ground at Area G.  These wastes are destined for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), but need to be treated or repackaged before shipment.

In fiscal year 2020, LANL sent 54 shipments to WIPP.  Most of these shipments were newly-generated waste from the fabrication of the triggers for nuclear weapons, or plutonium pits.  Each shipment to WIPP can hold 42 55-gallon steel drums.

Based on the current shipping rate, if all 3,100 above-ground drums were sent to WIPP at a maximum of 42 drums per shipment, it would take about 18 months.  But the amount of radioactivity in each drum dictates how many drums make up each shipment.   In the meantime, newly generated waste would be shipped into Area G.

In recent virtual meetings, LANL officials have been announced its plans to begin retrieving thousands of buried containers at Area G.  Those drums would most likely need to be repackaged before shipment to WIPP.  But again, the safety documents have not been developed and approved.  Safety documents address not only the repackaging and shipping operations, but also the delicate retrieval operations.  There is evidence that some drums have corroded.

CCNS asks why LANL is allowed to continue to operate Area G when safety basis documents have not been properly updated – in the case of Area G, nearly five years.

For more information about the issues discussed in this Update:

CCNS News Update, dated November 13, 2020 –

Government Accountability Office – Report to Congressional Committees – Nuclear Safety Report “DOE and Safety Board Should Collaborate to Develop a Written Agreement to Enhance Oversight,” GAO-21-141, dated October 29, 2020 –

Memorandum of Understanding between U.S. DOE and DNFSB Working Group Charter, dated October 21, 2020 –

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) Recommendation about proposed changes to DOE about the federal Nuclear Safety Requirements, 10 CFR 830, dated February 21, 2020 –

To begin, the new shaft at WIPP has been stopped!!!  On November 18, 2020, the New Mexico Environment Department denied the DOE/Nuclear Waste Partnership’s request for an extension of the temporary authorization allowing the excavation of a new shaft.  2020-11-18-RPD_HWB_WIPP_TA_Reissuance_Response_(Final)-1

THANK YOU to everyone who submitted public comments opposing the new shaft!  Together we are making a difference!


  1. THIS EVENING!!! Thursday, November 19th from 5:30 – 6:45 pm –

    Community Focused Conversation about Uranium Contamination in New Mexico.  Speakers include:  Manny Pino, Laguna-Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment (LACSE); June L. Lorenzo, LACSE; Laura Watchempino, Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE); Terry Keyanna, Red Water Pond Road Community Association; and Larry King, Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM).  Hosted by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.


            To register, please click on this link:

If for any reason you are unable to access the zoom,

you can also watch live on our Facebook page:


  1. December 1st – Giving Tuesday – Please include CCNS in your giving to support the weekly CCNS News Update and the social media network through which we distribute the Update and this Did You Know?  Thank you!


3. December 2nd and 3rd  10:30 am – 3 pm MST – virtual U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board meeting “to review information on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) non-site-specific geologic disposal research and development (R&D) program.”


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