No Tritium Monitoring Required for LANL Plutonium Liquid Waste Treatment Facility
In November 2021, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) applied to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin construction of a new radioactive liquid waste treatment facility for transuranic, or plutonium contaminated, liquid waste from the Plutonium Facility. LANL stated in its application, “Current plans are to monitor the [emission] stack only for particulate radioactive material; tritium and other gas- or vapor-phase nuclides do not make up a significant fraction of the potential dose from the [transuranic liquid waste] facility.” LANL Pre-Construction App to EPA RLWTF TLW 11-17-21
EPA is required to approve the application before construction can begin. On April 20th, 2022, EPA approved the application, without changing LANL’s plan to omit tritium monitoring in the emission stack prior to release into the air. EPA RLTWTF-TLW Approval 4-19-22
Tritium is radioactive hydrogen. It travels easily in the air and water, readily binds itself to almost everything and creates tritiated, or radioactive, water. Tritium is used in nuclear weapons to boost the efficiency and destructive yield.
LANL is under pressure to fabricate 30 plutonium pits, or the fissile triggers, for nuclear weapons by 2026 in the Plutonium Facility. In the fabrication process, water is contaminated with radioactive materials, including plutonium and tritium.
The transuranic liquid waste facility is the second construction project to replace the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility, which began operations in 1963. The first constructed replacement project was a low-level radioactive liquid waste treatment facility. The old and the two new liquid waste treatment facilities are located directly east of the Plutonium Facility.
On May 5th, the New Mexico Environment Department approved for the first time a groundwater discharge permit for the old facility – a process that began in 1994. It also granted permits to the two new replacement facilities, the Outfall 051, a mechanical evaporator and two large solar evaporators. https://www.env.nm.gov/public-notices/ , scroll down to Los Alamos County and DP-1132.
After treatment, tritium will be released into the environment from the outfall and the evaporators. It is unclear whether EPA added the potential doses from the outfall and the evaporators to the dose from the emission stack in its analysis before approval.
In 2013, the Department of Energy Inspector General estimated that the replacement facilities could cost taxpayers about $214 million. OAS-L-13-15 Audit Report: The Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility Replacement Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory, September 26, 2013. https://www.energy.gov/ig/downloads/audit-report-oas-l-13-15
But President Biden’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget reveals that the estimated taxpayer money needed for the construction of the transuranic liquid waste facility alone is over $215 million. Operations are expected to begin in late August 2027 and end in 2077 – a planned operation period of 50 years. [Budget line item no. 07-D-220-04, p. 235 – 241 of pdf.] https://www.energy.gov/sites/default/files/2022-04/doe-fy2023-budget-volume-1-nnsa-wa-v2.pdf
- Thursday, May 19 – Sunday, May 29, 2022: virtual and live in Rio International Uranium Film Festival. https://uraniumfilmfestival.org/
- Tuesday, May 31 at 6 pm MDT for one hour – Pax Christi: New Study Circle on Archbishop Wester’s Pastoral Letter on Nuclear Disarmament. Registration at: https://paxchristiusa.org/2022/04/26/register-for-the-new-study-circle-on-archbishop-westers-pastoral-letter-on-nuclear-disarmament/
- Sunday, June 12, 2022 – 40th Anniversary of the New York City March and Rally of One Million People for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament. Free virtual commemoration event from 10 am to 2 pm MDT; noon to 4 pm ET. Register at https://www.june12legacy.com/?emci=f80a145c-9ed3-ec11-b656-281878b8c32f&emdi=7aa2d758-73d7-ec11-b656-281878b8c32f&ceid=299000 Watch Robert Richter’s film In Our Hands about the 1982 March and Rally at https://vimeo.com/590296934?emci=f80a145c-9ed3-ec11-b656-281878b8c32f&emdi=7aa2d758-73d7-ec11-b656-281878b8c32f&ceid=299000
- Sunday, June 12th “Defuse Nuclear War” virtual 2 ½ hour event at 2 pm MDT; noon ET. Live presentations from a wide range of speakers including Medea Benjamin, Leslie Cagan, Mandy Carter, Khury Petersen-Smith, David Swanson and Katrina vanden Heuvel. World premiere of a video featuring Daniel Ellsberg on “defusing the threat of nuclear war,” produced by Oscar-nominated director Judith Ehrlich. https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_jhUM5ClzQJGAQysfNUeO2A
- Tuesday, June 14th, NM Water Quality Control Commission to consider designating over 100 miles of the Upper Rio Grande, the Rio Hondo and its tributary Lake Fork, and the Jemez River Headwaters (San Antonio Creek, East Fork, Jemez River, and Rodondo Creek) as Outstanding Waters (also known as ONRWs) under the Clean Water Act. Public comments are needed. For more information: WQCC 21-62 (R) – The Outdoor Recreation Division of the NM Economic Development Department Petition to Designate Segments of the Rio Grande … as Outstanding National Resource Waters (ONRW). https://www.nmoutside.com/our-work
- Saturday, June 18, 2022 in Washington, DC – Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls. https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/june18/
Tags: 30 plutonium pits per year, audit report OAS-L-13-15, Department of Energy, DOE, DOE Inspector General, DP-1132, Effluent Canyon, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, groundwater discharge permit 1132, LANL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, low-level radioactive liquid waste treatment facility, mechanical evaporator, New Mexico Environment Department, NMED, Outfall 051, PF-4, Plutonium Facility, plutonium pit production, President Biden’s proposed FY23 budget, Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility, transuranic liquid waste treatment facility, transuranic plutonium radioactive liquid waste, two large solar evaporative tanks