Richardson Approves Hotter Waste at WIPP
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) recently modified the operating permit for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) to allow highly radioactive waste to be disposed of there. Governor Richardson recently signed the modification in Carlsbad. WIPP is a repository for waste generated from the making of nuclear weapons. It is located 26 miles east of Carlsbad, in a salt mine 2,150 feet underground. WIPP opened in 1999 and is operated by the Department of Energy (DOE).
Transuranic (TRU) means that the waste is contaminated with elements heavier than uranium, such as plutonium. There are two forms of TRU waste, contact-handled (CH) and remote handled (RH). CH waste is waste that DOE allows its employees to come into contact with the barrels. RH waste is waste which must be handled with robotic equipment by humans located behind shielded walls and windows. In the past, and in large part due to public opposition, only CH waste was allowed at WIPP.
DOE states that there will be no impacts from shipping RH waste to WIPP so that there will be no disproportional adverse impacts to the low-income and minority populations surrounding the site and living along the transportation routes. However, Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (CARD), an Albuquerque NGO, states that this assertion is being made without scientific justification and does not comply with Environmental Justice principles. The document which assessed the Environmental Justice issues was written almost a decade ago. The communities nearest the site, Loving, Carlsbad and Artesia, have a higher average of minority, disabled and low-income populations than the United States as a whole. Furthermore, New Mexico, which will permanently house the waste and is the only state to experience all the shipments, has the highest minority populations in the 48 contiguous states.
Nevertheless, NMED stated that the "decision [to allow RH waste] is based in part on the [NMED] WIPP Hearing officer's decision that Environmental Justice issues concerning WIPP had been resolved."
Joni Arends of CCNS, said, "CCNS supports CARD's position that Environmental Justice issues must be addressed. Communities along the transportation routs have requested medical monitoring to determine a baseline before shipments begin. DOE must take these steps to protect public health."
Bioneers Pannel Will Discuss LANL Contamination
A diverse group of local women will speak about the contamination to the Rio Grande Watershed from activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) this weekend at the Bioneers conference in Taos, NM. Joni Arends, of CCNS, Rachel Conn, of Amigos Bravos, Marian Naranjo, of Citizens Living Around Nuclear Sites, and Sheri Kotowski, of the Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group, will speak on the panel. Some of these organizations have joined with others to send a 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue the DOE at LANL for Violations of the Clean Water Act.
The Bioneers conference provides a forum to connect the environment, health, social justice and spirit within a broad progressive framework. The Conference will be held from October 20 through 22. For more information, please visit www.bioneers.org.