Confusion Reigns over Draft Discharge Permit for LANL’s Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility
This week Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) asked the New Mexico Environment Department to withdraw its draft groundwater permit DP-1132 for the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) because of the confusing, incomplete and defective documents released for public review and comment.
In preliminary comments, the non-governmental organization wrote that the sole subject of the Public Notice was the new financial assurance requirements for cleanup, closure of the site, and any post-closure environmental monitoring. The Facility opened in 1963. Operations include the storage, treatment and disposal of waters contaminated with plutonium and hazardous pollutants associated with the manufacture of nuclear weapons. These pollutants have been found in the regional drinking water aquifer.
However, the Draft Permit did not use the term “financial assurance,” but “financial responsibility.” It requires only that the Department of Energy (DOE) ask for annual congressional funding for cleanup. The conflicting and esoteric language makes it almost impossible to provide informed and cogent public comments.
Financial assurance is a pledge or guarantee so that the funds will be available when needed for cleanup. The funds could be in the form of letters of credit, insurance policies, bonds, or trust funds.
In contrast, financial responsibility is a duty or task that one is required or expected to do, such as asking annually for the funding.
CCNS suggested that the financial assurance requirements be a condition of the management and operating contract between DOE and the nuclear weapons contractor, Triad National Security, LLC. In this way the funding mechanisms would be in place now and be available until such time as the post-closure cleanup is completed.
Another confusion is that the Draft Permit pdf document available on the Environment Department webpage includes a lengthy revision to a LANL August 2016 Closure Plan. Changes were made on almost every page. But the Public Notice only invited comments about the Draft Permit, excluding the Closure Plan. This is a clear example of why the Environment Department must withdraw its Public Notice, make the necessary corrections and begin the process again.
Nevertheless, it appears that the Closure Plan may open the door for permitting a new low-level radioactive waste facility without a public hearing. Recall that the Public Notice limits comments to financial assurance in the Draft Permit, but not a new facility.
Comments are due to the Environment Department by 5 pm on Wednesday, February 16th. CCNS will post sample public comments you can use early next week.
For more information and to review the draft documents: https://www.env.nm.gov/public-notices/ , scroll down to Los Alamos County, then to the U.S. DOE NNSA-LANL heading and scroll down to Ground Water Quality Bureau for Discharge Permit DP-1132.
1. Saturday, February 12, 2022 – last day for NM Environment Department (NMED) Secretary to Decide Whether Significant Public Concerns about the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in WIPP’s newly mined Panel 8 Requires a Public Hearing as a Class 3 Permit Modification Request to the NMED Hazardous Waste Permit.
A BIG shout out to the individuals and 19 organizations that voiced strong opposition to the permit modification request and asked for a public hearing.
2. Wednesday, February 16 at 5 pm MT – Public comments due to the NM Environment Department about whether the proposed financial assurance requirements for the cleanup, closure and post-closure of the LANL Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility (RLWTF) at Technical Area 50 are adequate.
For more information: https://www.env.nm.gov/public-notices/ , scroll down to Los Alamos County, then to the U.S. DOE NNSA-LANL heading and scroll down to Ground Water Quality Bureau for Discharge Permit DP-1132. Stay tuned. Sample public comments you can use will be available soon at CCNS’s website at http://nuclearactive.org/
3. Wednesday, February 16 at 5:30 pm – Virtual Presentation and Discussion of NMED – Hazardous Waste Bureau – Hexavalent Chromium Plume Control Interim Measures Overview – Los Alamos County Board of Public Utilities. https://losalamos.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=923152&GUID=6CC9CB98-8E1A-4911-809E-44EAE637B416&Options=info|&Search=
4. Friday, February 25, 2022 – Public Comments due to NM Environment Department, Air Quality Bureau, about revision to LANL’s Air Quality Permit to add two lathes for machining beryllium metal.
For more information: https://www.env.nm.gov/public-notices/ , scroll down to Los Alamos County, then to the U.S. DOE NNSA-LANL heading and scroll down to Air Quality Bureau, for Public Notice for Air Construction Permit (632MI). Stay tuned. Sample public comments you can use will be available soon at CCNS’s website at http://nuclearactive.org/
Tags: Closure Plan, Department of Energy, discharge permit, DOE, DP-1132, financial assurance, financial responsibility, Ground Water Quality Bureau, LANL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico Environment Department, New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act, NMED, plutonium, Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility, Triad National Security LLC
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