“Forever WIPP?” Permit Renewal Comment Period Extended

In response to complaints by CCNS and Deborah Reade that the pre-submittal permit renewal application was not easily accessible on its website, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) has agreed to extend the public comment period to Thursday, February 20th.  Senator Tom Udall’s staff also requested the extension of time.  f WIPP Comment Ltr 2-13-20

WIPP is required to hold a public meeting to discuss its draft application prior to submitting its final application to the New Mexico Environment Department at the end of March.  During the Santa Fe public meeting on January 23rd, CCNS pointed to the confusion about the location of the draft application on the WIPP website and requested that it be placed on the homepage.  Despite assurances from WIPP that a link would be added to the home page, that did not occur until after written complaints were filed and the comment period expired.  https://www.wipp.energy.gov/

Now that we have some additional time, here are some of the major, unresolved issues at WIPP:

First, the federal Department of Energy (DOE), owner of WIPP, has provided almost no information in Spanish about this permit renewal making it impossible for many Spanish speakers to be fully informed about the proposed changes for WIPP.  At a time when DOE is proposing major expansions, it should not skirt its responsibilities to provide information about its plans in Spanish.

Second, DOE wants the Environment Department to allow the site to receive plutonium-contaminated, or transuranic, waste until 2052, or 2080, or … essentially forever.  The current permit states disposal operations will end in 2024.  DOE promised the People of New Mexico that WIPP would dispose of waste for 25 years and then close the facility.

Third, the federal Land Withdrawal Act of 1992 limits WIPP to up to 6.2 million cubic feet of transuranic waste and prohibits any high-level waste or commercial waste, because Congress and New Mexico have always agreed, and DOE used to agree, that WIPP has a limited capacity, a limited operating lifetime, and that additional waste repositories would be built elsewhere.  https://www.congress.gov/bill/102nd-congress/senate-bill/1671

Fourth, DOE has submitted a request to the Environment Department for temporary authorization to mine a new shaft into the waste disposal area, which is 2,150 feet below ground surface.  The proposed shaft would allow new underground rooms that could more than double the disposal area because the existing permitted panels will be filled in a few years.  https://wipp.energy.gov/2020-information-repository-documents.asp under “Temporary Authorization Requests.”

Fifth, DOE and its contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, have clearly demonstrated that they cannot operate WIPPin the “start clean, stay clean” manner as stated in the Permit, as the site was closed to waste disposal for three years following the February 2014 fire and radiation release.

Sixth, the renewal application does not include adequate human exposure information as required by the regulations.  Only air releases are described.  Despite the fact that the transportation phase accounts for almost all of the negative health effects during normal operations, effects from the increased shipping in this proposed renewal application are not mentioned.

  1. Your financial support makes a difference!  Please help CCNS with a monthly sustaining donation.  Use our e-contribution form on the right side of our home page at http://nuclearactive.org/  Your contribution will support the CCNS Media Network!  Many thanks!
  2. Wednesday, February 19th, from 5:30 to 7:15 pm, LANL will host an “Environmental Management Cleanup Forum about Legacy Waste at LANL,” at the Cottonwood on the Greens (golf course), at 4244 Diamond Drive. https://www.cottonwoodonthegreens.com/ Topics include Cleanup:  Big Picture and Near-Term Decisions with a Community Discussion and Q&A, along with a Poster Session from 6:45 to 7:15 pm.
  3. Mark your calendar for you are cordially invited to attend the Third Annual Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium Benefit on Sunday, March 15th from 1 to 5 pm at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, in Albuquerque. There will be music, dancing, door prizes, a silent auction, food and drinks, and lots of fun!  For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/   Click here to view:  Event Flyer

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