* Mayor Delgado makes a deal for WIPP waste to travel on partially unpaved bypass road.

* Secretary of Energy Peľa resigns.

* Western Shoshone ask the US to honor the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

* President Clinton urges Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

* The Department of Energy hopes to begin weekly nuclear weapons production waste shipments by May 31 from Los Alamos National Laboratory to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (or WIPP) near Carlsbad in southeastern New Mexico.

Mayor Larry Delgado met with Secretary of New Mexico Highway and Transportation Department Pete Rahn, Senator Pete Domenici, and Congressman Bill Redmond on April 7th to work out a joint effort allowing WIPP waste on the Relief Route five months earlier than planned. In the agreement the WIPP waste is to be trucked on Camino La Tierra from U.S. 84/285 to Interstate 25 even though five miles of the route are unpaved. Residents living near Camino La Tierra feel the road is not ready for nuclear waste shipments, citing the occurrence of many accidents on the very narrow and highly dangerous road. Santa Fe City Councilor Frank Montaľo said the recent agreement reached by the city barred truckloads of radioactive material through Santa Fe until the 4-lane bypass was completed. "It's absolutely irresponsible for the Department of Energy (DOE) to begin shipping nuclear waste along a narrow street, I don't understand what's the big hurry."

Both Carlsbad Area Office manager George Dials and Secretary Peľa recently made statements that lawsuits to stop the opening of WIPP are anticipated. These lawsuits will be filed by environmental activist groups and the Attorneys General of New Mexico and Texas. Many legal experts believe the lawsuits will delay the opening of WIPP.

* Department of Energy Secretary Federico Peľa announced his resignation this week citing personal family reasons. The most likely person to succeed Pena is Elizabeth Moler, the DOE's deputy secretary.

Peľa has been under criticism lately regarding cleanup plans at DOE sites around the nation. When asked by Rep. Adam Smith (D- Wash) in an early April meeting with the House National Security Military Procurement Subcommittee about DOE site cleanup, Peľa admitted that the department is "above budget and behind schedule." Later in the same session Peľa said the opposite, stating the cleanup of Fernald, Ohio would be completed and the site closed by 2004, and that closure at Rocky Flats would be completed by 2006. When asked about the leaking radioactive contamination at the Hanford site in Washington, he did not give a direct answer, saying , "Our number-one priority is to protect the [Columbia] River." Smith continued to speak of the problem being encountered with the removal of spent fuel from Hanford's K Basins, where estimated costs have increased by $274 million dollars and the project completion date has been delayed to the year 2003. Smith also mentioned the departments tendency to miss agreement deadlines at other DOE sites, referring to threats of lawsuits from various Governors. Peľa said, "Obviously we hope we don't get sued."

* Hundreds of protesters from around the world will join representatives of the Western Shoshone Nation at the entrance to the Nevada Test Site Easter weekend. The activists will be there to support the Western Shoshone National Council's declaration that their traditional land known as Newe Sogobia is a nuclear free zone. The Western Shoshone are demanding a halt to the destruction of their lands, and an end to the violations of their religious rights. The tribe says the U.S. must honor the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and a treaty with the Shoshone Nation, to shut the Test Site down.

Adjacent to the Nevada Test Site, is Yucca Mountain, the nations first proposed high-level nuclear waste dump. Under the 1997 Nuclear Waste Policy Act, plans to ship over 45,000 containers of nuclear waste to Nevada for temporary storage will affect millions of citizens in over 40 states. According to the DOE estimates between 70 to 310 accidents are expected to occur during this shipping campaign.

* In an attempt to convince India, Pakistan, and North Korea to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Clinton Administration urged the Senate to ratify the treaty by the fall of 1998. Senator Jesse Helms, R-NC, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is primarily responsible for the holdup through his refusal to hold hearings on the issue.

While maintaining that the U.S. is secure in its ability to simulate nuclear tests, Undersecretary of State John Holum said that the Senate has "a historic opportunity" to make it harder for other nations to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Back to News Index