LANL’s Decreasing Priority at WIPP Over the Past Two Years
There are two measurements the Department of Energy (DOE) uses for the waste shipped for disposal in the deep underground repository at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), located 26 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The first measurement is the most important, which is the volume of waste measured in cubic meters. A cubic meter fits into a cube measuring 39 inches in width, depth and height. The second measurement is the number of waste shipments.
In fiscal year, or FY, 2022, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) shipped 513 cubic meters of plutonium-contaminated wastes from nuclear weapons production for disposal at WIPP. In FY 2023, there was a 5 percent increase to 538 cubic meters.
While in FY22 LANL shipped almost 34 percent of the total waste emplaced, in FY23, only 16.5 percent was from LANL. Every other site had a much larger increase. Thus, LANL’s priority compared with all the other shipping sites decreased in FY23.
Overall during this two-year period, LANL shipped the second highest amount of waste behind the Idaho National Laboratory, which sent more than 63 percent of all the waste. Following LANL was the Savannah River Site, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
A fiscal year begins on October 1st of one year and ends on September 30th of the following year.
In addition to expecting LANL waste to be a higher priority in the future because of new provisions in the WIPP Renewal Permit, New Mexicans want to know the type and amount of plutonium-contaminated waste that was shipped to WIPP. Was it waste generated before 1999, called “legacy waste,” or was it post-1999 waste, called “newly generated waste” from ongoing fabrication of plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons?
These are important questions because WIPP was built to dispose of plutonium-contaminated legacy waste, which LANL defines as waste generated prior to 1999, the year WIPP opened for disposal. Additionally, legacy waste is buried at LANL in unlined pits, trenches and shafts dug into the volcanic geology of the Pajarito Plateau. Plutonium has been detected in the deep regional drinking water aquifer below unlined LANL legacy waste dumps where it migrates towards the Rio Grande.
Despite numerous requests from CCNS about the breakdown of the LANL waste types and amounts shipped to WIPP, DOE has not been forthcoming.
Please contact your congressional members and ask that DOE make this information publicly available and easily accessible.
- Friday, October 23th at 11 am MT – Nuclear-Free Future Award winners announced at Beyond Nuclear online awards ceremony. Awardees are: Anthony Lyamunda (Tanzania) for Resistance; Libbe HaLevy (USA) for Education; and Malte Göttsche (Germany) for Solution. Register at: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_nxZDuzIoQj6tT-B7igxKjg#/registration
- Friday, October 13th from noon to 1 pm MT *** NEW LOCATION DUE TO RECONSTRUCTION OF GUADALUPE BRIDGE. *** Join the weekly peaceful protest for nuclear disarmament on the corners of Alameda and Sandoval in downtown Santa Fe with Veterans for Peace, CCNS, Nuclear Watch NM, Loretto Community, Pax Christi, Nonviolent Santa Fe, and others.
- Saturday, October 14th from 10 to noon MT – Massachusetts Peace Action Online Forum: Warheads to Windmills – Abolishing Nuclear Weapons and Fossil Fuels: What will it take? Register at MassPeaceAction.org: https://masspeaceaction.org/event/abolishing-nuclear-weapons-and-fossil-fuels-what-will-it-take/
- Sunday, October 15th at 6 pm MT – World Premiere of San Onofre Syndrome (SOS) – Nuclear Power’s Legacy. For more information about the film and to purchase tickets: https://sanonofresyndrome.com/
- Wednesday, October 18th from 4:30 to 6:30 pm – Public Training for LANL’s Electronic Public Reading Room and IntellusNM. For more information: https://permalink.lanl.gov/object/tr?what=info:lanl-repo/eprr/ESHID-603792
- Thursday, October 26th at 6 pm MT – U.S. Department of Energy, Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), and Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) semi-annual public meeting virtual joint meeting about their environmental programs. Please see attached flyer for more information and links to join the meeting. DOE SNL KAFB AGENDA Public Meeting October 2023
Tags: Department of Energy, DOE, Idaho National Laboratory, INL, LANL, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, legacy waste, Los Alamos National Laboratory, newly generated waste, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, plutonium-contaminated waste, Rio Grande, Savannah River Site, Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, waste shipments, WIPP