Newsbytes about WIPP and LANL

This week’s Update will provide short highlights of a recent victory and information about Department of Energy (DOE) plans either to bring more than 34 metric tons of “surplus” plutonium to New Mexico or to use the plutonium in a proposed test reactor.  These plans are open for public review and comment.  And finally, DOE tested the 700-C fan at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

First, the victory:  On Tuesday, January 26th, the Santa Fe County Board of County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution requiring a new site-wide environmental impact statement, or SWEIS, for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) before any proposed expansion of plutonium pit production there.  Plutonium pits are the triggers for nuclear weapons.  The last LANL SWEIS was completed in 2008.

Commissioners Anna Hansen and Anna Hamilton brought the resolution forward.  SF Co. BCC LANL SWEIS Resolution No. 2021-011

Although public comments were due on Monday, February 1st, about the scope of an upcoming environmental impact statement for DOE’s plans to bring 34 Metric Tons of surplus plutonium to WIPP, DOE has extended the comment period to Thursday, February 18th    Sample public comment letters you can use are available here.  f one-pager Surplus Pu Scoping EIS comments 1-8-21     f long Surplus Pu Scoping EIS comments 1-8-21

At the same time, DOE has another plan for the same 34 Metric Tons of surplus plutonium, which is as fuel for its proposed three to six billion dollar Versatile Test Reactor, a fast neutron reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory.

DOE claims that it needs the test reactor for experimentation, but no support of that claim is found in the draft environmental impact statement.  Normally, uranium is used as fuel.  DOE wants to use both uranium and plutonium as fuel, which would increase the risk of operating such a reactor.  The fuel would be fabricated at either the Idaho National Laboratory or at the Savannah River Site.

This operation would generate waste, which DOE wants to ship to WIPP.  Public comments are due to DOE by Tuesday, February 16th.

A short sample public comment letter that you can use is available here.  Sample comment Versatile Test Reactor 2-4-21 

Finally, over this past weekend, DOE conducted a four-hour test of the aboveground 700-C fan at WIPP to determine what amount of radioactive particles would be released. The fan was shut off on February 14, 2014 when one or more drums of plutonium-contaminated waste exploded in the deep geologic disposal facility.  DOE claims that using the fan increases airflow in the underground.  But releasing contamination endangers workers on the surface.  The $300 million New Filter Building that would bring uncontaminated airflow is delayed by contractor errors.  Test results from the air sampling will be available soon.  DOE will host a virtual public meeting to discuss them in about two weeks.

  1. Sunday, February 14, 2021: Seventh anniversary of the explosion in the WIPP underground of one or more drums of plutonium-contaminated waste packaged and shipped by LANL.  Please contact your congressional and state representatives and let them know that you remain concerned about safety and security at WIPP.  Urge them to publicly support the closure of WIPP in 2024 after 25 years of operations as promised by the DOE, and, as required by the NM Environment Department’s Hazardous Waste Permit.


  1. Tuesday, February 16, 2021: Comments due to DOE about the Versatile Test Reactor, a fast neutron reactor with uranium and plutonium fuel, draft environmental impact statement.  Sample public comments are available at


  1. Thursday, February 18, 2021: Comments due to DOE about the scope of a forthcoming draft environmental impact statement for its plans to bring up to 48.2 metric tons of “surplus” plutonium to New Mexico for processing at LANL and disposal at WIPP.  It is important for DOE to receive comments for New Mexicans.   Sample public comments you can use available at on the right side of the page under the golden #STOPFVRWIPP logo.

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