DOE Proposes to Dump 160 Million Curies of "Hot" Low-Level Waste in New Mexico - Public Hearings Begin April 26
The Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing to dispose of 160 million curies of "hot" commercial low-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants at sites in New Mexico. The proposed sites are Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), and a proposed site in the vicinity of WIPP.
Public hearings on the draft environmental impact statement will be held in Carlsbad on Tuesday, April 26th; in Albuquerque on Wednesday, April 27th; and in Pojoaque on Thursday, April 28th. At all locations, the hearings will be held from 5:30 to 9:30 pm, with public comment beginning at 7 pm.
The waste from commercial nuclear power plants is called "Greater-Than-Class C low-level radioactive waste." The Nuclear Regulatory Commission classifies low-level waste into four categories, named Class A, Class B, Class C, and the more highly radioactive Greater-than-Class C. The hotter wastes are activated metals from decommissioning the 104 commercial nuclear reactors in the U.S. and any new plants.
Current regulations say that the hot wastes should be disposed in a geologic repository. The only such site considered is WIPP, located near Carlsbad. Some other sites, including a site in the "WIPP Vicinity" and LANL, are being considered for near-surface burial in "enhanced trenches," vaults, or intermediate-depth boreholes. Other proposed sites are the Nevada Test Site, Hanford, the Idaho National Laboratory, and the Savannah River Site. The draft statement also states that some non-DOE sites might be considered, but no such site is identified.
The draft statement does not include the alternative suggested by many people from around the country in 2007. That alternative is "Hardened On-Site Storage" (HOSS) in which the Greater-than-Class-C waste and irradiated spent fuel would remain at commercial nuclear power plants in long-term storage so that they can be monitored. Keeping the waste in HOSS would reduce the risk of accidents or a terrorist attack during transport.
Activists say that DOE should not proceed with a final environmental impact statement, but instead should develop a new draft statement that includes HOSS facilities as the best solution for this hot waste for decades to come.
The Tuesday, April 26 Carlsbad hearing will take place at the Pecos River Village Conference Center. The Wednesday, April 27 Albuquerque hearing is located at the Marriott Pyramid North, 5151 San Francisco Northeast. And the Thursday, April 28 Pojoaque hearing will be held at the Cities of Gold Hotel Conference Center.
For more information and to read the 2011 "New Mexico May Be the Dump for More Radioactive Wastes" fact sheet, please see box to the upper right of this page. DOE information is available at www.gtcceis.anl.gov .