Dispute Resolution Process Begins Over LANL Air Emissions

Federal Judge Orders DOE to Remove Buried Waste at INEEL

* Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (or CCNS) submitted a statement to the U.S. Department of Justice this week formally outlining their position that Los Alamos National Laboratory (or LANL) is not in compliance with the Clean Air Act for the years 2000 through 2002. The statement is the official beginning of the dispute resolution process that is provided for in the settlement of CCNS's 1994 lawsuit against the Department of Energy (or DOE) for Clean Air Act violations at LANL.

The settlement requires that LANL undergo a series of three independent technical compliance audits and provides for a fourth audit should substantive deficiencies in LANL's compliance be found in the third. The Independent Technical Audit Team (or ITAT) completed the third audit in October 2002 and determined that LANL was in compliance with the Clean Air Act and that no fourth audit would be necessary.

However, CCNS and its team of experts from the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research disagree. CCNS argues in the statement that under the Clean Air Act regulations, LANL is required to perform periodic confirmatory measurements of sources of low emissions, of which there are hundreds. In 1996, the Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA) and DOE signed a Federal Facilities Compliance Agreement, which exempted LANL from some of those measurement requirements. However, EPA and DOE terminated the Agreement in 1999.

During the third audit process of LANL's emissions for the calendar year 2001, CCNS requested that the ITAT review the status of the Agreement. No review was done. The ITAT cited the Agreement more than 40 times in its draft final report for the third audit. EPA did not review the draft report. However, DOE and LANL, in their comments to the draft report, never revealed that the Agreement had been terminated.

CCNS also argues that LANL is required to guarantee the quality of data from the sources of low emissions. Such data quality assurance is required by the regulations and DOE orders.

CCNS learned about the terminated Agreement through a Freedom of Information Act request to EPA. Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, "We are extremely disappointed that we found out about the status of the Agreement outside of the audit process. The intent of the Court-ordered audit process was to provide transparency in LANL's emissions reporting. The pattern of secrecy that instigated our 1994 lawsuit still exists at LANL today, nearly 10 years later."

CCNS is currently awaiting a response from the Department of Justice.

* A federal judge this week ruled that DOE must clean up all transuranic waste currently buried at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (or INEEL). DOE argued that their 1995 cleanup agreement with Idaho only applied to 65,000 cubic meters of waste stored aboveground, without cleanup of 62,000 cubic meters of waste buried on the site. The judge ruled that DOE is required to cleanup both aboveground and buried waste at INEEL. Citizens were concerned because the buried waste is a significant threat to the Snake River Aquifer, which is Idaho's largest drinking water source.

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