.News Update 3/27/09

WIPP Requests Stimulus Funding for Already Funded Work

March 27, 2009

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) celebrated the tenth anniversary of receiving its first shipment of transuranic waste by asking for $170 million from the stimulus bill, called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The stimulus bill aims to create jobs, restore economic growth and strengthen America's middle class. The funding is required to be used by September 30, 2011.

The WIPP Recovery Act Project proposes to accelerated the disposal of transuranic waste, as well as completing the certification requirements for a new, large shipping container, called a TRUPACT-III, and replace equipment, make renovations, conduct preventive maintenance, and make infrastructure improvements at the WIPP site. Such improvements include purchasing a crane, fork lifts, vehicles, radiation contamination equipment and repaving the access road.

In 1979, Congress authorized the Department of Energy (DOE) to construct WIPP 26 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The radioactive and hazardous waste is buried 2,150 ft. beneath the surface in a salt formation. DOE claims that WIPP has been constructed to demonstrate the safe underground disposal of transuranic nuclear weapons waste presently stored at DOE facilities across the U.S.

Activists are concerned that WIPP is asking for stimulus funding for work it has either already been paid for or work that should be funded under its annual appropriations. Don Hancock, with Southwest Research and Information Center, has raised concerns for years about the additional funding WIPP receives each year from Congress above its budget request and the decreasing amount of waste disposed, compared with the planned performance. For example, last year WIPP received the least amount of waste for disposal in the last seven years, but received almost $235 million in funding, 107% of what was requested. Hancock said, "Because of a two-month shutdown, we already know that WIPP won't meet its disposal goals this year, even though it is receiving $20 million more than it requested. Rather than getting more money, it should use its existing, more than adequate funding."

On the other hand, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has not asked for funding to address ground and surface water contamination that may impact Santa Fe's drinking water supplies. Each year, LANL receives about $140 million for cleanup activities. LANL anticipates receiving an additional $200 million in stimulus funding. They have proposed to remove buildings and dig up old waste dumps at Technical Area 21, which is located on DP Road in downtown Los Alamos. These projects have been on the agenda for years, but have not received adequate funding.

CCNS remains concerned that stopping the transport of contamination through the canyons to the Rio Grande is not a LANL priority, nor is the investigation of the hexavalent chromium plume in the regional aquifer. Southwest Research and Information Center and CCNS urge DOE to shift the stimulus money that WIPP is requesting to focus on the water contamination problems at LANL.

Back to News Index