LANL Waste Heading to Utah and Possibly Texas

December 18, 2009

Without notice to the communities along the route, contaminated radioactive and toxic wastes from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have been trucked through Pueblo lands and Hispanic communities in Northern New Mexico to a railhead located on private land in Antonito, Colorado. The wastes were transferred to train cars for a journey east, then north and finally west to the EnergySolutions waste site located 75 miles west of Salt Lake City. EnergySolutions also won the contract to ship wastes from LANL to its Utah site.

The railhead of the San Luis & Rio Grande is located about a football field away from the San Antonio River, a major water source for the farming community located in the lower San Luis Valley. Residents and elected officials are concerned about the transfer point, as well as the fact that the waste will move across two century-old bridges and along a route with recent derailments. In December 2007, seven freight cars derailed near the top of the 9,242-foot La Veta Pass.

The railroad and EnergySolutions did not receive the necessary county land-use permits before beginning the transfers. Conejos County Commissioner Joe Mestas said, "We have stopped the shipments. We required they come in and comply with our permit process."

LANL spokesman Fred deSousa said LANL expects to ship a total of 12,000 cubic yards of the toxic and low-level radioactive wastes under the contract. About 400 truckloads will be transferred into 133 train cars for the trip to Utah.

LANL received over $170 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding in order to demolish plutonium and tritium processing buildings and to remove waste buried from an old Manhattan Project dump. These projects are required under the 2005 agreement between the New Mexico Environment Department and the Department of Energy and LANL. Thousands of cubic yards of all sorts of wastes will be generated, which will need to be treated and disposed.

Right across the southeastern border of New Mexico, a Texas company is working to obtain permits in order to dispose of new wastes. Last week, Waste Control Specialists was before the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission asking to expand the types of low-level radioactive waste allowed for disposal. The company wants to expand its operations at the facility located five miles east of Eunice, New Mexico and 30 miles west of Andrews, Texas.

Currently, only low-level radioactive waste from Texas and Vermont may be disposed of in Texas. The Compact Commission is considering a rule to allow for exportation and importation of wastes, which could include LANL wastes. The Commission is schedule to meet again on January 22nd in Austin.

Several environmental groups, including the SEED Coalition, the Lone Star Sierra Club, Nuclear Information and Resource Service and Public Citizen, are monitoring the proposed rule and its implication for Texas possibly becoming the nation's radioactive waste dump. For more information, please visit

CORRECTION - DECEMBER 21, 2009: Waste Control Specialists is asking the Compact Commission to make rules that would govern the process of importing low-level radioactive waste from outside of the compact to the West Texas dump. They do want to expand the site, but at the Compact Commission meeting they weren't asking to expand the types of waste. There were asking to expand who could dump there, so instead of the waste coming from just the Compact states (Texas and Vermont) it could come from anywhere in the US.

It's important to note that this is only related to the Compact Facility which is one part of the low-level radioactive waste disposal (LLRWD) license. The other facility of the LLRWD license is a federal facility which the Compact Commission has no authority over.

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