City of Santa
Fe asks "Nuclear Laundry" to Return
Secret British Nuclear
Weapons Program Documents Discovered on Street
Groups Protest Planned Restrictions on the Public's Rights at
Services Group, a Massachusetts-based company, formerly known
as Interstate Nuclear Services (or INS), ran a laundry in Santa
Fe that washed radioactively contaminated uniforms from Los Alamos
National Laboratory until it was forced to cease operations under
a City order four years ago. Unitech was recently asked by the
City of Santa Fe to return to town.
since Unitech had to close its Santa Fe outlet for violating city
sewage regulations in 1996, the company has fought the City's
efforts to regulate its wastewater discharge in court. Earlier
this year, the company won a federal court ruling striking down
the city ordinance that regulates radioactive discharge on the
grounds that the law usurped federal authority and was therefore
invalid. The City's immediate attempt to appeal the ruling was
denied by the U.S. district judge that made the decision. The
case will remain open until a jury decides all 11 counts that
are involved in the case.
attorney representing the City of Santa Fe, Ellen Casey, and City
Attorney Peter Dywer, have acknowledged that the City recently
invited Unitech to return if the company is willing to adhere
to guidelines set forth in the previous 1997 court settlement.
"We're caught between a rock and a hard place," Casey said, meaning
that the City of Santa Fe has to comply with federal wastewater
regulations and at the same time not overstep the authority given
to the City to regulate.
the recent ruling, representatives of Unitech announced that they
would seek $3.5 million in compensation from the City of Santa
Fe, a figure that far exceeds the city's insurance for lawsuits
and may have to be paid from the city's general fund. The city
is likely to file an appeal once the entire case is finished.
currently has a New Mexico Environment Department license to package
contaminated laundry for shipment to a Unitech facility in California.
*A set of documents that allegedly contain
secret information about Great Britain's nuclear weapons program
were discovered on a street near the Aldermaston nuclear weapons
factory in Berkshire last week. The papers, dated March 10, detail
the country's nuclear weapons research, development and production
goals and discuss plans for international collaboration with the
U.S. and France.
the British government is under pressure to reduce its nuclear
weapons stockpile under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and has
not publicly announced any intentions to build new weapons, the
secret documents reveal plans for the development of new weapons
such as a smaller precision warhead to destroy enemy bunkers.
The papers also contain plans to assess employee skills within
the British nuclear weapons complex to guarantee that enough professional
expertise is available to design new weapons. Further, they detail
the need for partnerships between weapons researchers and universities
and staff exchanges with French and American nuclear weapons laboratories.
British Ministry of Defense's public position on its nuclear weapons
program is to merely "maintain a capability" for the deployment
of nuclear weapons.
coalition of more than 100 consumer rights and environmental organizations
appealed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) last month
to halt its plans to conduct informal public hearings instead
of formal ones, a move which would severely restrict the public's
opportunities to fully participate in the decisionmaking process
on a variety of nuclear safety related issues. In formal hearings,
the public has the right to obtain documents through discovery
and to cross-examine hearing participants, whereas in informal
hearings, those opportunities are not available.
"We believe that the Chairman's move to limit the public's rights is
wrong and will further erode public confidence in the agency, the nuclear
industry and any potential resolution of the high-level nuclear waste
problem," says Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass
Energy Project. Some groups note that the nuclear industry promised in a
deal made in the late 1950s to allow extensive hearings in exchange for
being exempted from state and local regulation. James Riccio, senior
analyst for Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project, says: "We see
no reason to give away our rights to cross-examination and discovery. We
do not accept the nuclear agency and industry notion that ignorance is
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