Current Activities

Will DOE’s Surplus Plutonium End Up in New Mexico?

The Department of Energy (DOE) has 61.5 metric tons of what it calls “surplus” nuclear weapons-grade plutonium.  Approximately 13 metric tons is currently stored in the old K-Reactor building at the DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina.  It can stay there until a technically sound and publicly accepted plan is developed and implemented.  But the public has to demand that better approach.  Many groups have stated that the next step

should be an environmental impact statement process to discuss the reasonable alternatives.

The previous plan was to mix the plutonium with uranium to create mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel for nuclear power plants.  But DOE’s construction of a MOX facility was decades behind schedule and tens of billions of dollars over budget.  The Obama administration proposed terminating it.  South Carolina politicians resisted, so for several years Congress funded the construction.

Congress did allow DOE to terminate the MOX facility, which it did in 2018.  http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/srs_watch_on_mox_termination_letter_october_12_2018.pdf

Lawsuits were filed by South Carolina to keep the construction going.  Last June, a federal district judge granted South Carolina’s request for a preliminary injunction to continue construction.  But on January 8th, a federal appeals court in Virginia issued a final, strongly worded ruling affirming the DOE’s termination of the boondoggled MOX project.  http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/srs_watch_on_appeal_ct_mox_termination_ruling_january_8_2019.pdf

Tom Clements, Director of Savannah River Site Watch, said, “This ruling by the appellate court is thankfully one of the very last nails in the coffin of the problem-plagued MOX project.  Now, all termination activities at the MOX project must continue apace and the taxpayer must be relieved of the burden the mismanaged project caused.”  http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/srs_watch_news_on_mox_reactor_photos_jan_4_2019.pdf

DOE must have a new plan.  If the surplus plutonium does not stay in South Carolina, it appears DOE will target New Mexico.

DOE will ship some of the surplus plutonium to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for disposal.  The recently approved permit modification to increase WIPP’s capacity would allow for more surplus plutonium.  http://nuclearactive.org/environment-department-approves-30-percent-wipp-expansion/

In response to other South Carolina litigation, DOE also plans to ship some of the surplus plutonium, approximately one metric ton, from South Carolina to the Device Assembly Facility (DAF) at the Nevada Test Site.  But the State of Nevada has sued to prevent such shipments.  http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/savannah_river_site_watch__news_on_plutonium_shipment_court_hearings_jan_7_2019.pdf

Eventually, DOE plans for that surplus plutonium to be shipped to Los Alamos National Laboratory for use in nuclear weapons.  http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/savannah_river_site_watch__news_on_plutonium_shipment_court_hearings_jan_7_2019.pdf

These are yet additional proposed assaults on New Mexico.  However, since the public is opposed to those plans, the New Mexico state government and the congressional delegation can demand new and better plans.  DOE has made a mess.  New Mexico has and is doing its part.  New Mexico should not be targeted for more surplus plutonium.


DID YOU KNOW?

1.    Due to the government shutdown, the January 23 – 24, 2019 NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing about the Holtec license application will be moved to a new location.  Please stay tuned to CCNS.  We’ll let you know as soon as we know.  For more information about the NRC Holtec hearing, http://nuclearactive.org/nrc-holds-holtec-hearing-in-albuquerque-on-january-23rd/

2.    On Monday, January 7, 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed James Kenney as Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department.  Read Laura Paskus interview with him at http://nmpoliticalreport.com/2019/01/10/qa-with-incoming-nmed-head-a-commitment-to-go-big-on-environmental-issues/?mc_cid=c6288d5b57&mc_eid=797c9d1c41

3.     It’s Time to March Again!

On Saturday, January 19th at 11 am at the Roundhouse, the 2019 Northern New Mexico Women’s March in Santa Fe will march to the Santa Fe Plaza where a line-up of inspiring speakers and performers will share their wisdom and experiences from 12pm – 2pm. Check out the Facebook event page here.
The Northern New Mexico Women’s March in Santa Fe is being organized by a coalition of gender justice activists, organizations and community members, which is being planned in accordance with the Guiding Vision found at NewMexicoWomen.Org here.
To our friends and allies in Albuquerque and central New Mexico, please join our sister March in Albuquerque on Sunday, January 20th! Check out their Facebook event page here.
 

NRC Holds Holtec Hearing in Albuquerque on January 23rd

In less than three weeks, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will hold a pre-hearing about the standing and the sufficiency of the hearing requests from the Parties concerning Holtec International’s application for a consolidated interim storage facility for commercial high-level radioactive waste in southeast New Mexico.  The public hearing will begin at 9 am on Wednesday, January 23rd, and, as necessary, on Thursday, January 24th, in the sixth floor courtroom at the United States Historic Courthouse, located at 421 Gold Avenue, Southwest, in Albuquerque.  No opportunity for public comment will be provided.  https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/aslbp/

The Parties will argue they have standing and their intervention petitions allow them to participate in the NRC process about Holtec’s application for a 40-year license to store 8,680 metric tons of commercial spent nuclear fuel in a vertical configuration.  https://www.nrc.gov/waste/spent-fuel-storage/cis/holtec-international.html

Holtec proposes 19 expansion phases over a 20-year period for a total of approximately 10,000 canisters, or about 100,000 metric tons.  About 80,000 metric tons of waste currently exists at nuclear reactor sites.  Holtec also proposes to bring all future waste.

The proposed site is located 15 miles north of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant site, and half way between Carlsbad and Hobbs, along U.S. 180.

The Board will hear oral argument from the attorneys for the Parties.  The Board has established the following order:  counsel for Beyond Nuclear http://www.beyondnuclear.org/ ; counsel for the Sierra Club http://www.riograndesierraclub.org/holtec/ ;  counsel for Alliance for Environmental Strategies http://nonuclearwasteaqui.org/ ; counsel for seven groups:  Don’t Waste Michigan https://dwmi.homestead.com/ , Citizens’ Environmental Coalition http://cechouston.org/ , Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination http://www.caccmi.org/ , Nuclear Energy Information Service https://neis.org/ , Public Citizen, Inc. https://www.citizen.org/ , San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace https://mothersforpeace.org/ , and Albuquerque-based Nuclear Issues Study Group https://abqpeaceandjustice.org/index.php/about/pajola/item/266-nuclear-issue-study-group ; counsel for NAC International, Inc., a direct competitor of Holtec https://www.nacintl.com/ ; counsel for Fasken Land and Minerals, http://www.mineralholders.com/texas/midland/fasken-land-minerals/7257465 and Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owners; counsel for Holtec International https://holtecinternational.com/ ; and counsel for the NRC Staff.

Fasken Land and Minerals is a fracking driller with holdings close to the Holtec site.  The Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owners formed in response to the consolidated interim storage facilities proposed by the privately owned Holtec, and nearby Waste Control Specialists, now known as Interim Storage Partners.  Fasken and the Royalty Owners filed a motion to dismiss based on the fact that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act does not recognize privately owned consolidated interim storage sites.

The Board will reserve time for comments from a representative from each of the following local government petitioners:  Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance http://www.eddyleaenergyalliance.com/ ; the City of Carlsbad http://www.cityofcarlsbadnm.com/ ; Lea County https://www.leacounty.net/ ; Eddy County https://www.co.eddy.nm.us/ ; and the City of Hobbs https://www.hobbsnm.org .

Please mark your calendars for this important hearing and support the interveners.


There are two privately held corporations applying for NRC licenses for consolidated interim storage facilities (CISF) for high-level commercial radioactive waste. 

1.  Holtec International in southeast New Mexico at https://www.nrc.gov/site-help/search.html?q=holtec+in+adams&site=allSites#gsc.tab=0&gsc.q=holtec%20in%20adams&gsc.page=1

2.  Interim Storage Partners (ISP) in west Texas, five miles east of Eunice, New Mexico at

1.  Holtec International in southeast New Mexico at https://www.nrc.gov/site-help/search.html?q=holtec+in+adams&site=allSites#gsc.tab=0&gsc.q=holtec%20in%20adams&gsc.page=1

2.  Interim Storage Partners (ISP) in west Texas, five miles east of Eunice, New Mexico at https://www.nrc.gov/site-help/search.html?q=holtec+in+adams&site=allSites#gsc.tab=0&gsc.q=WCS%20interim%20storage%20partners%20in%20adams&gsc.sort=

 

Environment Department Approves 30 Percent WIPP Expansion

Last Friday, before a four-day holiday weekend, the Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department, Butch Tongate, approved the permit modification request by the Department of Energy (DOE) to expand by thirty percent the waste capacity of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  The haste to finalize the permit modification request prior to the end of the Martinez Administration is evident in the number of errors in the Secretary’s Order Approving Draft Permit. The Parties to the permit modification process, which included a three-day public hearing in Carlsbad, will now have thirty-days to appeal the Secretary’s decision to the New Mexico Court of Appeals. HWB 18-19 (P) Secretarys Order Approving Draft Permit

In January, 2018, DOE and its contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, a limited liability corporation, proposed to modify the Environment Department’s hazardous waste permit to allow a new way to count the amount of waste disposed of at WIPP, in violation of federal law and the state’s legal authorities.  https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/, scroll down to “WIPP News 2018.”

In 1992, Congress passed the Land Withdrawal Act, which allows for the disposal of up to 6.2 million cubic feet of transuranic, or plutonium-contaminated, radioactive and hazardous waste generated from nuclear weapons research, development, and manufacturing.

The Environment Department is charged with protecting public health and the environment.  In 1999, the Environment Department included the 6.2 million cubic feet capacity in the initial hazardous waste permit.  The permit continued previous DOE practice of the volume being counted as the gross internal volume of the outermost container.  For example, putting containers in larger overpacks results in counting the outer container volume, which, among other things, includes air contaminated with wastes in the outer container.

Now, due to nearly two decades of mismanagement of the waste capacity in which more than 700,000 cubic feet of underground space was not used, DOE and its contractor ginned up a new definition, a “Land Withdrawal Act transuranic, or TRU, waste limit.”  The new definition allows DOE to count the volume of the waste inside the containers.  Instead of counting the overpack volume, the Environment Department decision allows DOE to count the volume as it desires.

Under the federal act and the permit, no later than the time when 6.2 million cubic feet of waste has been buried, WIPP must close.  Under the approved modification, the Environment Department has given up its regulatory authority to DOE to say when WIPP must be closed.

Don Hancock, of Southwest Research and Information Center, and one of the Parties to the negotiations and hearing, said, “The Final Order violates federal law, the New Mexico-DOE Consultation and Cooperation Agreement, decades of practice, and the permit record. The Order must not be implemented.”  http://www.sric.org/

 

NM NGOs Ask Environment Dept. to Strengthen Public Policies

This week, 23 New Mexico non-governmental organizations (NGOs) submitted a letter to the New Mexico Environment Department requesting the agency take specific steps to strengthen its overall public outreach and its engagement with people who do not speak English proficiently – about 10 percent of the population.  18-12-17-SecondRequest-CommunityLetter-NMED_NS_CARD_1707015

In February, the Department released three policies in response to an Informal Resolution Agreement reached between the Environment Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), External Civil Rights Compliance Office.  The January 2017, Informal Resolution Agreement responded to a Title VI civil rights complaint filed in 2002 by Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (CARD) about the Department’s discriminatory practices during the hazardous waste permit hearing for Triassic Park, a proposed dump located east of Roswell.  https://nuclearactive.org/epa-reaches-informal-resolution-of-14-year-old-civil-rights-complaint-against-nmed/

NMED regulates hazardous waste facilities, and issues permits allowing the discharge of pollutants into groundwater, among other regulatory activities.  The NGOs also asked for a meeting with the Department, soon after the Lujan Grisham Administration takes office, to discuss their requests.

The community groups also acknowledged the Department had made important improvements to public processes since the Informal Resolution Agreement was reached.  Based on the groups’ experience, however, these additional improvements are necessary to provide a meaningful opportunity to engage in the Department’s public processes for all New Mexicans.

The letter requests the Department to make specific changes to the public participation and limited English proficiency policies.  The policies were initially released without any public input, despite the fact the Department was asked by community organizations to solicit public input before they were released.  The Department has since invited public input as part of an annual review process.

In the letter, the community groups provided specific recommendations for how the polices can be improved to ensure that all New Mexicans have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the Department’s public processes as required by law.  The recommendations include examples from recent public hearings, including the groundwater discharge permit for Waste Control Specialists, a waste dump located in Texas, allowing discharges into New Mexico; the proposed modification of the hazardous waste permit for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant; and two groundwater discharge permits for Los Alamos National Laboratory.

These recommendations are particularly important given that over 35 percent of the population speaks a language other than English at home.  Many of the communities most impacted by polluting industries have an even higher proportion of people with limited English proficiency.

The requests include providing the public with an opportunity to give input about the Public Involvement Plans that are formulated by the Department before a draft permit is issued for public comment.  The request seeks to ensure that the Department’s public engagement strategy is appropriate for the affected communities by requiring more communication with community leaders before the permitting process begins.  Other requests include:

  • Clearly define what “vital” documents will be translated in permitting processes, including draft permits or summaries of draft permits and fact sheets;
  • State clearly how people who do not speak English proficiently can access an interpreter before, during, and after public hearings processes;
  • Include in the policies and in training of Department staff that the public should be involved early and often throughout the public engagement process, as recommended by EPA guidance;
  • Consult and work with community groups throughout permitting processes, in accordance with EPA guidance;
  • Affirmatively work to address low turn-out of people who do not speak English proficiently, in accordance with EPA guidance;
  • Budget for adequate interpretation and translation at an agency level; and
  • Apply the policies to NMED contractors and subcontractors.

The letter was drafted as part of the legal representation of CARD by Nicole Sanchez, clinical law student at the University of New Mexico Natural Resources and Environmental Law Clinic, working under the supervision of Professor Gabe Pacyniak, together with Marianne Engelman-Lado, who is of counsel with the Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC).  http://lawschool.unm.edu/clinic/sections/natural-resources-and-environmental-law-clinic.html and https://prrac.org/

The 23 community organizations that signed onto the letter are: Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, Alliance for Environmental Strategies (AFES), Amigos Bravos, Citizen Action New Mexico, Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (CARD), Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), Concerned Citizens for Wagon Mound and Mora County, Earthjustice, Gila Resources Information Project (GRIP), Los Jardines Institute, Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE), New Mexico Environmental Law Center, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, Partnership for Earth Spirituality (PES), Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Rio Grande Waterkeeper, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition (SEED), Tewa Women United, Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC), Western Environmental Law Center and Wild Earth Guardians.

 

Martinez Administration Rushes to Approve WIPP Expansion

Ignoring the normal administrative timeframes and the legal volume limits, the Martinez administration is rushing to approve the proposed thirty percent expansion of the amount of waste allowed at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).   In the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act of 1992, Congress allowed disposal of up to 6.2 million cubic feet of transuranic, or plutonium-contaminated, waste and provided that the New Mexico Environment Department and the Environmental Protection Agency would ensure that the limit was not exceeded.

The request by the Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, would change the way the amount of waste has been measured for more than two decades.  Neither DOE nor the Environment Department have explained where the additional waste would be disposed since there is no space in the existing underground rooms for it.  They have not explained why the change is needed when WIPP is less than 55 percent filled.

In January, DOE and its contractor submitted the permit modification request to the Department, which was strongly opposed by thousands of New Mexicans.   On August 6th, the Department drafted a permit and released it for 45 days of public comment, the minimum time allowed by regulations and less than the 60 days provided earlier in the year for a much less complicated modification request.

Up against its self-imposed December 31st deadline, the Department released its notice for a public hearing on Saturday, September 22nd for a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, October 23rd through Thursday, October 25th, in Carlsbad, thereby preventing meaningful negotiations required by the regulations.  https://www.env.nm.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/FINAL-WIPP-Hearing-Notice-VOR-English.pdf  At the hearing, technical testimony was given, cross-examination of the witnesses occurred, and it was clear that the law does not allow two ways to calculate the waste volume.

Under the regulations, there is a thirty-day period of time following the filing of the hearing transcript for the Parties to submit their findings of fact, conclusions of law, and closing arguments.  In this case, the Parties had only six days after the final transcript was filed.

On December 10th, the Hearing Officer released his 45-page report, which rubberstamped all of the Department’s findings and conclusions, and ignored many facts.  Hearing Officer’s Report The regulations allow fifteen days for the Parties to review and provide comments about the report.  But the rush is on, and so the Parties must submit their comments before the close of business on Tuesday, December 18th – a mere eight-day comment period.  https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/

The Parties include the Environment Department, DOE and its contractor, and those opposing the draft permit:  former Environment Department WIPP regulator, Steve Zappe; and non-governmental organizations, Southwest Research and Information Center, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, and Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

 

DOE Extends Comment Period for High-Level Waste Definition

On Tuesday, December 4th, the Department of Energy (DOE) granted a 30-day extension of time for public comments about their proposal to change the definition of the most dangerous form of radioactive waste – high-level waste.  This waste, which was created by reprocessing for nuclear weapons, makes up only about 5% of the total volume of weapons radioactive waste.  But it is extremely dangerous because it contains about 98% of the radioactivity of all defense wastes.  DOE proposes two categories of high-level radioactive waste:  high-level waste and non-high-level waste.  Comments are now due on Wednesday, January 9th, 2019, to HLWnotice@em.doe.gov.  Sample comments will be available after the first of the year.  HLW Comment Extension   

On November 15th, the DOE’s Environmental Management Assistant Secretary, Anne Marie White, spoke before the 17th Annual Intergovernmental Meeting in New Orleans.  The meeting is described as providing “opportunities for increased communication among DOE, states, tribes, and local communities affected by the on-going cleanup of the nuclear weapons complex.”  https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDOEOEM/bulletins/21f0a15#link_3

White explained that for a long time she has been involved in the proposed change and she was pleased that DOE is moving forward with a public comment period.  Despite concerns expressed by those in attendance, White asked them to provide their “unique insight into efforts underway to examine possible options to better manage and dispose of waste that has been stored at sites for decades with no near-term path forward.”

White stated the DOE environmental liabilities were the third largest in the federal government.  In February 2017, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that DOE’s environmental liability is over $370 billion and growing.  This figure included cleanup at the three DOE sites in New Mexico.

Every two years the GAO conducts a review of government operations to identify those with vulnerabilities for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.  DOE has always been on the list.

Nevertheless, White asked the participants to “fight the [environmental management liability [] together.”  Some claim that changing the definition could result in an estimated $40 billion in savings.  http://nuclearactive.org/doe-requests-comments-about-high-level-waste-definition/

If the definition of high-level waste is changed, there will be more pressure to expand the types of waste allowed to be shipped and disposed of at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP.   DOE has already tried.

Tom Carpenter, Executive Director of the Seattle-based Hanford Challenge, summed up the concerns.  He said, “The Trump Administration wants to save billions by renaming this waste, at the cost of leaving this waste in shallow land burial.  Over time, these long-lived radionuclides will be in our food, water and air, causing cancer and mutations for generations.  Of course you can save money by not doing the cleanup.”  https://www.hanfordchallenge.org/

 

Public Comments at Safety Board Hearing Say It All

The public comment portion of the November 28th, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board public hearing about restrictions the new Department of Energy Order 140.1 places upon the Board, was most informative.  Sure, the Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for the Office of Environment Management, Anne Marie White, testified about implementation of Order 140.1, which unduly restricts the Board from doing its work.  She indicated that the Order had not changed the relationship between DOE and the Safety Board.  White left before the public comments began.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/public-hearings-meetings/november-28-2018-public-hearing

It was the son of former Board member, Navy Captain Jack Crawford, who served as a member of the Safety Board from 1989 to 1996, who laid it on the line.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/about/former-board-members?page=1   The Captain’s son, Jack Crawford, did not plan to testify, but he felt compelled to do so.  He was a coach and a teacher.  While he did not study nuclear safety, he knew from the discussion about the Order that things were serious.  He explained that the Board was modeled on the Navy; how the Navy has never had a nuclear accident, even though they lost two submarines.

Crawford compared how the DOE and the owners of the National Football League act.  When there is a need for a discussion between the NFL and the players, similar to the DOE and the public need to discuss issues, the owners and DOE leave.

Kathy Crandall Robinson, provided comments on behalf of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, based in Livermore, California  http://www.trivalleycares.org/ and the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a national network of more than 30 organizations located near DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration defense nuclear facilities.  http://www.ananuclear.org/   CCNS is a member organization of ANA.

Crandall Robinson spoke about the “particularly egregious problem with Order 140.1 [that] redefines and limits the role of [the Safety Board] in protecting worker safety and health.  Yet the Safety Board has been crucial to protecting workers.  To cite one example, the enormous importance of [the Safety Board’s] role in conveying information and carefully keeping records is highlighted in a recent Santa Fe New Mexican story entitled, ‘Exposed:  The life and death of Chad Walde.’  http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/the-life-and-death-of-chad-walde/article_0fafac1a-d8c6-11e8-9b93-d3669f02cc94.html  The news article details Mr. Walde’s journey working in high radiation areas at Los Alamos National Laboratory, from the fall of 1999 to September 2014, and it cites [Safety Board] reports as evidence of exposures.”  https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/16756/Tri-Valley%20CAREs%2C%20Alliance%20for%20Nuclear%20Accountability.pdf

The order, entitled, “Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board,” was issued in May, without public notice and opportunity to comment.  https://www.directives.doe.gov/news/o140.1-interface-with-the-dnfsb-news

The Safety Board’s hearing record will remain open until December 28th, 2018.  The Safety Board will hold its third public hearing in Albuquerque in February.

 

Safety Board Holds Nov. 28 Live Streamed Public Hearing

On Wednesday, November 28th, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board will hold a public hearing about the Department of Energy Order 140.1, which restricts Board access to personal, facilities, and documents for some of the most dangerous DOE nuclear facilities across the country.  The restrictions are contrary to the congressional legislation that established the Safety Board in 1988.  Its statutory mission is to “provide independent analysis, advice, and recommendations to the Secretary of Energy … in providing adequate protection of public health and safety at defense nuclear facilities.”  The hearing will be held in Washington, DC from 10 am to 1:30 pm Eastern Time, or 8 am to 11:30 am Mountain Time.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/public-hearings-meetings/november-28-2018-public-hearing  It will be live streamed from the Board’s website at https://www.dnfsb.gov/ .

Wanting to hear from the public about the impact of the Order on the public’s confidence in both the Safety Board and DOE, the Board scheduled over 100 minutes for public comment.  If you would like to give public comments, please email hearing@dnfsb.gov by the close of business on Monday, November 26th.

The hearing record will remain open until December 28th, 2018.

This hearing is a follow-up to the initial hearing on August 28, 2018 where the Safety Board received testimony from the DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration officials, along with Safety Board technical personnel and the public.  The hearing was marked by DOE’s insistence that the Order meant little in the way of actual change, and the Safety Board’s growing skepticism.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/public-hearings-meetings/august-28-2018-public-hearing

The order, entitled, “Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board,” was issued in May, without public notice and opportunity to comment.  https://www.directives.doe.gov/news/o140.1-interface-with-the-dnfsb-news

For the past 30 years, the Board has overseen and reported about both worker safety and public health and safety issues.  The new Order limits the Board’s oversight to public health and safety outside the boundary.  The new restrictions do not allow the Board to do its work efficiently and effectively.

The Safety Board conducts oversight and provides transparency at three DOE sites in New Mexico.  At Los Alamos National Laboratory, there are two on-site resident inspectors, who produce weekly reports that are posted on the Board’s website.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/documents/reports?f%5B0%5D=field_document_type%3A38  At Sandia National Laboratories and at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), there are part-time resident inspectors.  They produce a monthly report about each site, also posted on the Board’s website.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/documents/reports?f%5B0%5D=field_document_type%3A39

In September, Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich requested the Safety Board hold a hearing in New Mexico.  In October, the Safety Board announced it would hold a public hearing in Albuquerque in February 2019.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/documents/letters/letter-tom-udall-and-martin-heinrich-us-senate-re-dnfsb-hearings

 

Important New Mexico Legislative Committee Live Streams November 20th Meeting

In its final meeting of the year, the Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Interim Committee of the New Mexico Legislature has a full agenda.  On Tuesday, November 20th, beginning at 9 am and continuing until 5 pm, the Committee will hear about the Carlsbad Brine Well, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, the Gold King Mine Spill, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.  At 4:30 pm, the Committee will hear from the public.  https://www.nmlegis.gov/agendas/RHMCageNov20.18.pdf   The meeting will be held in Room 309 of the State Capitol and live streamed from https://www.nmlegis.gov/

Ken McQueen, Secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, will give an update about the remediation of the Carlsbad Brine Well.  It is located beneath the South Y highway junction of U.S. 285 and U.S. Highway 62/180.  In August, the Department began to fill the 400-foot deep cavern that is wide enough for the State Capitol to fit in it.  Some officials believe it could collapse at any time.  https://www.currentargus.com/story/news/local/2018/07/10/carlsbad-brine-well-could-collapse-during-construction-officials-say/772046002/

Tina Cordova and Mary Martinez White, of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, will present about the harm done by the overexposure of radiation from July 16, 1945 Trinity atomic bomb test.  They will present about the proposed amendments to the federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act that would expand coverage to the Trinity Downwinders and the Post ’71 Uranium Miners.  https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/

After lunch, Dennis McQuillan and Michaelene Kyrala, of the New Mexico Environment Department, will present the latest information about the Gold King Mine Spill and other Superfund cleanup issues.  https://www.env.nm.gov/river-water-safety/ and  https://www.env.nm.gov/gwqb/sos-nm-sites/

John Kieling, of the New Mexico Environment Department, will present about operations and management at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant under the hazardous waste permit.  The Environment Department recently held a public hearing about a proposed permit modification to expand by 30 percent the volume of waste allowed for disposal.   The Martinez Administration wants to sign off on the proposal before it leaves office on December 31sthttps://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/

Dr. Thomas Mason will be wearing two hats when he presents about the management transition at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  He will be speaking as the LANL Director, and as President and Chief Executive Officer of the limited liability company, called Triad National Security.  Triad recently took over management and operation at LANL for the National Nuclear Security Administration, a stovepipe organization within the Department of Energy, for the research, design, and manufacturing of nuclear weapons.  Triad is composed of Battelle Memorial Institute, the Texas A&M University System, and the University of Californiahttps://www.triadns.org/

New Mexico Senator Jeff Steinborn, of Las Cruces, is the Chair of the Committee.  https://www.nmlegis.gov/Members/Legislator?SponCode=SSTEI

 

International Uranium Film Festival Returns to Southwest

The International Uranium Film Festival returns to the Diné Nation, with additional screenings throughout New Mexico and Arizona, from Thursday, November 29th through Wednesday, December 12th.  In an effort to keep people informed and aware, particularly during this critical time of escalating nuclear threats, the festival informs.

The Festival’s Director, Norbert G. Suchanek, said, “The issue of nuclear power is not only an issue of the Navajo Nation, who suffered for decades because of uranium mining. All people should be informed about the risks of uranium, nuclear weapons and the whole nuclear fuel chain.”

Films will be shown in Window Rock on November 29th and 30th and December 1st.  Awards will be presented for the best productions.

Screenings will also be held in Flagstaff on December 2nd at Northern Arizona University, in the Native American Cultural Center; in Albuquerque on December 6th at the Guild Cinema; in Grants on December 7th at the New Mexico State University Campus, in Martinez Hall; in Santa Fe on December 9th at the Jean Cocteau Cinema; and in Tucson on December 12th at the YWCA Tucson, in the Frances McClelland Community Center.  For more specifics, please go to http://uraniumfilmfestival.org/

Founded in 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, the festival aims to inform the public about nuclear power, uranium mining, nuclear weapons and the health effects of exposure to radioactivity. It seeks to educate and activate the public and inspires an informed discourse about the health and environmental risks of the nuclear cycle, from uranium mining to radioactive waste storage and disposal.

The Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE) is working to inform the public about the film festival.  MASE is composed of communities impacted by uranium who are working to restore and protect the natural and cultural environment through respectfully promoting intercultural engagement among communities and institutions for the benefit of all life and future generations.

Susan Gordon, MASE coordinator, said, “We are very excited to have expanded the Uranium Film Festival to six locations in New Mexico and Arizona. We have films from more than ten countries.

“We have a strong selection of films that examine the impacts from uranium mining including: “Half Life: The Story of America’s Last Uranium Mill,” https://vimeo.com/161080821;  “Dignity at a Monumental Scale,” https://vimeo.com/261408010;  and “NABIKEI (Footprints),” https://www.facebook.com/Shriprakash23 directed by Shri Prakash from India, who will be attending the Festival.

“We also have films that look at issues along the nuclear fuel chain, from nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands, https://www.kathyjetnilkijiner.com; to nuclear waste storage proposed at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, https://www.therepositorymovie.com; to an amazing facility being built in Switzerland, https://vimeo.com/75918238 .”