.News Update 03/21/08

DOE Hearing in Espanola on Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 21, 2008

After receiving numerous requests from the Northern New Mexico community and elected officials, the Department of Energy (DOE) agreed to hold a public hearing about their proposal for Complex Transformation in Espa–ola on Thursday, March 27, 2008, beginning at 6 pm at the Mision y Convento.

The DOE proposal includes expanding the manufacturing of the plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads from 20 to up to 200 per year at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Under the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, DOE is required to examine the impacts from such expansion. The Complex Transformation document revealed that LANL will need more water and create more air emissions and waste under any of the proposals.

But recent disclosures of LANL contaminants found offsite have raised concerns in the communities of Santa Fe and the Rio Embudo Watershed.

In May 2007, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) reported plutonium and other radionuclides associated with nuclear weapons manufacturing in an old river channel near the proposed Buckman Direct Diversion Project.

In June 2007, the City of Santa Fe reported plutonium in the Buckman wells, which provide about 40% of the drinking water to City and County residents.

Earlier this month, the Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group (EVEMG) hosted a meeting at Picuris Pueblo about recent sampling results. At the meeting, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) released the results of a new study that found exceptional levels of radioactive contamination in a soil sample taken near Trampas Lake in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The study is part of on-going regional sampling projects organized by EVEMG in co-operation with NMED.

Levels of contamination exceeded background measurements for the radioactive contaminants of cesium, strontium and plutonium. These contaminants are all generated by the nuclear weapons industry. Levels were particularly high for cesium, falling just short of a screening level, or a level where action must be taken to remediate the contamination. Cesium is a potent radioactive substance that mimics potassium in the body and is absorbed and concentrated in muscle tissue of animals and fish. Exposure can result from eating vegetation grown in contaminated soil.

Sheri Kotowski, of EVEMG, said, "Nuclear weapons activity at LANL is a likely regional source of the contamination. The predominant winds have blown directly from LANL into the Sangre de Cristos for the past 65 years."

Picuris Pueblo Governor Craig Quanchello recently said, "Water is key to life. We must stop being afraid and support one another by uniting as one voice so that our message is loud and clear, clean up your industrial waste. Protecting Mother Earth should be on the top of everyone's list."

Pubic comments about the Complex Transformation proposal are due to DOE on April 10. Many are concerned that there is not enough time to review the extensive document and have requested a 90-day extension of time to provide informed comments. More information is available at http://www.nnsa.doe.gov/complextransformation.htm

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