• * DOE agrees to an environmental analysis of National Ignition Facility; and

  • * Institutional DOE problems are the main obstacle to environmental clean-up.

  • Santa Fe City Council Votes of Relief Route Ordinance

    DOE maintains the so-called Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program is needed to ensure the safety and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile.

    In the settlement agreement, DOE is now required to review documents and interview employees regarding possible contamination at the site. DOE must then prepare and circulate for public review and comment a supplement to the PEIS "which evaluates the reasonably foreseeable significant adverse environmental impacts of continuing to construct and of operating NIF at the lab with respect to any potential or confirmed contamination by hazardous, toxic and/or radioactive materials or contaminated groundwater."

    Barbara Finamore the Natural Resources Defense Council attorney who represents the 39 environmental groups said, "DOE claims that it does not have to complete a PEIS on its environmental clean-up program, but can merely address it on a site-by-site basis. We have argued, that at a minimum, the issues of intersite transport and clean-up standards must be analyzed on a programmatic basis under the National Environmental Policy Act. Clearly Judge Sporkin found our arguments persuasive, and told DOE that such a review would benefit the nation by avoiding problems such as those that occurred at NIF."

    * A report written by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (or I-E-E-R) called Containing the Cold War Mess: Restructuring the Environmental Management of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex analyzes flaws in current Energy Department programs and outlines a plan for restructuring DOE's clean-up work. The report points out a "lack of coordination among DOE divisions, misplaced priorities, and inconsistent data are causing needless problems in a job that is already difficult by its nature." Other problems are DOE's opposition to national environmental remediation and waste management standards, which the Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA) abandoned under pressure from DOE, attachment to Cold War technologies such as reprocessing, which is the extraction of plutonium from irradiated fuel; and the absence of a meaningful technical review process.'

    Arjun Makhijani, IEER President and co-author of the report said, "DOE seems incapable of learning lessons from its many failures. It continues to rush into large projects without adequate preparatory work grants huge budget increases without engineering review, and repeats the same mistakes."

    The report points out numerous examples of mismanagement of plutonium-contaminated waste and cites conspicuous discrepancies in DOE data. At Los Alamos National Laboratory the discrepancy in the amount of plutonium in waste between two government figures is nearly 1,700 pounds.

    In conclusion, the document has three suggestions for reorganizing the clean-up program: "First the creation of a new federally-owned corporation with a majority of board of directors and top executives chosen by the governors of the states which host major DOE sites. Second, there must be a set of stringent, national clean-up standards that are independently enforced. Third, there must be external peer review of major projects.

    * On October 29th the Santa Fe City Council voted to support/reject an Ordinance/Agreement which would restrict the transportation of WIPP waste through Santa Fe to the hours between 1 AM and 4 AM. This Ordinance/Agreement was created to protect the citizens of Santa Fe in case WIPP opens and shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant begin before the Santa Fe Relief Route can be completed. We would like to thank our city councilors and everyone else who worked so hard to make this Ordinance a reality. In the weeks ahead we will keep bringing you WIPP updates.

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