Waste shipment leaks are cited as potential WIPP danger.

LANL waste treatment expenses may be wasting millions in taxpayer's money.

Pentagon considered using nuclear weapons against Saddam Hussein.

Nuclear waste disposal protested in other countries.

Town meetings and final WIPP hearings set for early January.

* The leaks detected this week in cross- country truck shipments of low-level radioactive waste should be a warning, anti-nuclear critics say, of futurepossible leaks in even more dangerous waste shipments destined to travel through New Mexico. They are worried, specifically, about plutonium- contaminated wastes slated to be buried at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, near Carlsbad, New Mexico. "And wait till we get the high level wastes (from nuclear-power plants) coming through here" to Nevada, said Don Hancock, a leading WIPP critic at the Southwest Research and Information Center, in Albuquerque. Although the government disagrees, he said, "WIPP needs escorts along with those shipments so that if there is a leak or an accident somebody other than the (waste truck) driver is there to deal with it."

The leak incidents "don't inspire public confidence that they are going to do theseWIPP shipments safely, " agreed Lee Lysne, Executive Director of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. The Department of Energy, said Lysne, "has forfeited the right to say 'trust us.' The leaks are another example of this."

The DOE announced last Wednesday that one leak of low-level waste was found on a truck 20 miles east of Kingman, Arizona. Four other leaks were on trucks that arrived Monday and Tuesday at the Nevada test site north of Las Vegas, Nevada. The DOE claimed that the leaks were contained within the truck, and were under investigation. Use of the leaky containers has subsequently been halted.

The Director of the DOE's Carlsbad office said that there are major differences between the low-level waste disposal program and requirements for the WIPP.

"Our container is more robust, very conservative and it's been extensively tested." he said. It is specially designed and engineered to contain plutonium contamination, which can cause cancer. WIPP wastes will contain no liquid, drivers will be extensively trained in strict procedures, and shipments rigorously inspected. " Our shipments are an insignificant added risk to the public, " he said. But Lysne said accidents and misinformation have taught critics not to trust the DOE.

"Robust?. ..It sounds like a fine wine. But they're dealing with radioactive waste and they repeatedly demonstrate a lack of accountability," she said. She urged citizens to voice their concerns at the final round of U. S. Environmental Protection Agency hearings on WIPP in early January.

* The cost of privatization of the Los Alamos National Laboratory 's radioactive liquid waste treatment facility has not been sufficiently analyzed, a new report by the Department of Energy maintains. The failure to fully analyze operating costs may be costing $2 million more per year than necessary, the Inspector General's office of the DOE said, and may come close to $11 million over the next five years.

According to the report, nuclear power companies spend an average of 10 cents per gallon to treat their radioactive nuclear waste, while the lab is spending $1. 70 per gallon. A Lab spokesman said Monday that the Lab doesn't agree with the numbers, but accepts the need for a privatization study. According to the DOE report, earlier studies were begun by the lab, but never completed. Study groups at LANL conceded that privatizing some waste management activities could have benefits in many areas, and identified liquid waste management as a high priority for privatization. Selecting the most cost-effective operation method could not only save the government millions of dollars in operating costs, but also eliminate the need for a new plant to replace the current 34-year-old facility, a replacement estimated at $13 million. The lab says it has hired an outside firm to make the report, which should be completed in spring.

* The use of low-yield tactical nuclear weapons against biological weapons in Saddam Hussein's Iraq was an option considered by Pentagon planners, an in-depth analysis by NBC revealed. The bomb, known as the B61-11was designed and produced at Los Alamos and can penetrate underground bunkers and incinerate possible germ warfare agents with the heat generated by its explosion. NBC News said that the strike was considered because the U.S. does not have conventional weapons effective against biological targets. It was fear of a political backlash that caused the nuclear option to be abandoned, officials told NBC's Pentagon correspondent.

* And in other news around the world, anti- nuclear activists in Germany chained themselves to a ship in Bremerhaven harbor on Monday. The ship was carrying plutonium to a nuclear reprocessing center in Scotland, said Greenpeace, the environmental organization.

In Amsterdam, Greenpeace called on France to salvage radioactive material that sank last month in the Atlantic.

In Mexico City, a box of highly radioactive material is believed to have fallen off a truck more than a week ago. Mexican authorities are offering a $2,500 reward to anyone who turns it in.

* WIPP Town meetings will be held on January 3, from 3:00-5:00 p.m., and January 5 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at the Santa Fe Public Library. The final Environmental Protection Agency public WIPP hearings will take place in Carlsbad, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, from January 5 through January 9. In Santa Fe the hearings will be held at the Harold Runnels Auditorium, 1190 St. Francis Drive, at 3:00-9:00 p.m., January 8, and 9:00--5:00 p.m., January 9. CCNS would like to encourage the public to attend. Those who wish to speak should call the EPA's toll-free number at (800) 331-WIPP by noon, Dec. 30. Speakers are allowed 5 minutes each, and if there are slots available, those wishing to speak can also register at the door.

For more information, Call CCNS.

* There will be no new hotline during the week between Christmas and the New Year. The next hotline will be issued on January 8, 1998.

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