Current Activities

NRC Public Meetings to Bring High-Level Waste to New Mexico

Last Friday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) opened a 60-day public comment period for a proposal to store 8,680 metric tons, or 500 canisters, of spent plutonium fuel generated by commercial nuclear reactors from across the country to a site halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs in southeastern New Mexico.  The federal agency is asking for public comments about the “scope” of an environmental impact statement they will be preparing, based upon an application submitted last year by Holtec International.  https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-03-30/html/2018-06398.htm.  At the end of an estimated three-year process, Holtec, a privately held corporation, is anticipating the NRC to issue it a 40-year license, and it anticipates extensions for up to 120 years.

The first phase would consist of storing 500 canisters.  But there is more.  Over 20 years, Holtec is proposing 19 expansion phases, 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 reactors.  The proposal is to bring all of the existing high-level waste to New Mexico, as well as waste still being generated at nuclear power plants.

Scoping comments will be accepted for 60 days, or until Tuesday, May 29, 2018.  A sample public comment letter, prepared by colleagues at Nuclear Watch New Mexico, is available for you to use at   Holtec Sample Public Comment 4-4-18

The NRC will be hosting four evening events so that you can learn more about the Holtec proposal.  They will be holding a webinar and hosting three open houses in Southeast New Mexico.  Please mark your calendars.

On Wednesday, April 25th, the NRC will host a webinar for public comments from 5 to 7 pm Mountain Time. https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/782486400478718643

On Monday, April 30th, NRC will host an open house in Roswell from 4 to 7 pm at Eastern New Mexico University, 48 University Blvd., Campus Union Building, Room 110.  A court reporter will be available so that public comments can be made on the record.

On Tuesday, May 1st, an open house will be held in Hobbs from 6 to 7 pm at the Lea County Event Center, 5101 North Lovington Highway.  From 7 to 10 pm, public comments about the scope of the environmental impact statement will be heard by the NRC and the court reporter.

On Thursday, May 3rd, another open house will be held in Carlsbad from 6 to 7 pm at the Eddy County Fire Service, 1400 Commerce Street.  From 7 to 10 pm, the NRC and a court reporter will hear public comments about the scope of the environmental impact statement.

Rose Gardner, of the Alliance for Environmental Strategies, based in Southeast New Mexico, said, ” Holtec wants a license to bring High-level radioactive waste to Southeast New Mexico. This waste is so dangerous that the reactor communities that produced and benefited from the electricity they used no longer want to store it. We must let the NRC and Holtec know that we don’t want it and we refuse to accept this de facto permanent storage. It is an environmental injustice to promote Southeast New Mexico as a willing participant in their schemes to dump on a predominantly Hispanic and minority area, such as where we live.”

 

New Mexico Public Health Association Recognizes Trinity Downwinders and Events at White Sands Gates

Please join the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium at two White Sands Missile Range entrances during the Trinity Site open house on Saturday, April 7th to support those who have been negatively affected by radiation exposure from the first plutonium atomic weapon test there on July 16, 1945.  The Army opens the Trinity Site twice a year for people from around the world to visit the radioactively contaminated site.  http://www.wsmr.army.mil/Trinity/Pages/Home.aspx

Beginning at 7:30 am, the Downwinders will gather at the Tularosa Gate, located on the Tulie Gate Road, west of the Tularosa High School, for a one-hour peaceful demonstration.  Beginning at 9 am, the Downwinders will gather at the Stallion Range Station, east of San Antonio on Highway 380, for a three-hour peaceful demonstration.  Please bring your own water, snacks, chair, hat, and a poster or sign.

Tina Cordova, a co-founder of the Downwinders, explained the goal of the peaceful demonstrations is “to educate people about what it has meant to be a downwinder [and] basically tell the other part of the story since all people have ever heard is about the science and industry.”

The Downwinders will provide information about the harm done to the People living downwind of the Trinity Site and their efforts to ensure that the Trinity Downwinders are included in the proposed amendments to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).  In 1990, Congress passed RECA to provide medical care and compensation to those living downwind of the Nevada Test Site, another location used for testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.  RECA was amended in 2000.  The Trinity Downwinders have never been included even though over $2.2 billion has been paid in claims.

Cordova said, “Seventy-three years have passed.  Now is the time for the U.S. Government to recognize those who were unknowing, unwilling, uncompensated, innocent participants in the world’s largest science experiment, who have been suffering in silence ever since the bomb was detonated.  Our organization is revealing the rest of the story and the People are being made aware of the complete legacy of Trinity.”  https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/home

In recognition of this work, the New Mexico Public Health Association will award the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium with the Phil Lynch Legislative Award on Thursday, April 5th at their 101st Annual Meeting in Albuquerque.  http://www.nmpha.org/2018AnnualConference  The Phil Lynch Legislative Award recognizes policy makers who actively work with communities to improve the health of the public.  Associate New Mexico State University Professor Cynthia Kratzke, who volunteers with the Downwinders, nominated them “for their outstanding advocacy efforts.”

For more information, please contact Tina Cordova at 505-897-6787.  For information about the Tulie Gate gathering, please contact Kathy Tyler at 575-585-2896.  For information about the Stallion Range Gate gathering, please contact Louisa Lopez at 575-835-8146.

 

CCW Files Motion to Dismiss draft LANL Discharge Permit

The New Mexico Environment Department has scheduled an April public hearing about a proposed ground water discharge permit for the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) even though the New Mexico Water Quality Act does not authorize the issuance of the permit.  Because the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility no longer discharges to the environment, the Water Quality Act does not apply.

For decades, LANL worked to make the liquid treatment facility into a “zero-discharge” facility.  Such a facility would no longer discharge thousands of gallons a day of treated radioactive and hazardous liquid wastes through a discharge pipe into a tributary of Mortandad Canyon.  That goal was accomplished in November, 2010 when the facility discharged its last drop through the pipe.

Last week, the Communities for Clean Water (CCW) filed a Motion to Dismiss the proceedings with the Hearing Officer arguing that the New Mexico Water Quality Act does not apply.  Further, even if the permit were issued, it would only become effective “on the date the discharge begins.”  No discharge has occurred in more than seven years, and there are no plans for a discharge.  A permit would be a nullity and would remain a nullity.  Over the years, CCW raised this issue by providing extensive public comments to the Environment Department and through active involvement in negotiations with the Department and LANL.

Further, CCW argues that the facility should be regulated by the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act because it treats, stores, and disposes of hazardous waste.  The hazardous waste law is more protective of human health and the environment because it would regulate the entire facility, not just the discharge.  Nevertheless, LANL has operated the facility on the basis that it is exempt from hazardous waste laws and regulation.

In New Mexico, however, conflicts between the Water Quality Act and the Hazardous Waste Act are mediated by a provision in the Water Quality Act that states that a facility subject to the Hazardous Waste Act cannot be regulated by the Water Quality Act.  180316 Motion to Dismiss DP-1132

The public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, April 19th beginning at 9 am, and will continue as needed, at the Fuller Lodge Art Center, Pajarito Room, at 2132 Central Avenue, Los Alamos, NM.  https://www.env.nm.gov/gwb/NMED-GWQB-PublicNotice.htm

CCW is an alliance of five community organizations located in five Northern New Mexico communities located downstream and downwind of LANL and the location of the 1960s-era Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility.  CCNS is a founding member of CCW, which includes Tewa Women United, based in Santa Cruz; Honor Our Pueblo Existence, based at Santa Clara Pueblo; Amigos Bravos, based in Taos; and the Partnership for Earth Spirituality, based in Albuquerque.  http://ccwnewmexico.org/

CCW is represented by attorney, Lindsay A. Lovejoy, Jr.  http://lindsaylovejoy.com/

 

Public Comment Needed on Proposed New WIPP Expansion

On January 31, 2018, the Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), submitted a Class 2 Permit Modification Request to change the way that waste is measured at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the repository for defense plutonium-contaminated or TRU waste, located in southeastern New Mexico. Public comments can be submitted to the New Mexico Environment Department until Tuesday, April 3.  http://www.wipp.energy.gov/rcra-com-menu.asp

Because the federal WIPP Land Withdrawal Act limits the amount of waste to 6.2 million cubic feet, how to measure the amount of waste is important. Waste emplaced at WIPP has always been measured based on the volume of the container. By container volume is the way DOE has always reported to Congress how much waste is at WIPP. By container volume is how DOE contractors have been paid and received performance bonuses. By container volume is the way that the WIPP Permit and permits in other states calculate the amount of waste.  https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/

The modification request would create an additional measurement, called the “Land Withdrawal Act TRU Waste Volume of Record [which] means the volume of TRU waste inside a disposal container.” The request explains that the effect of the change would reduce the amount of waste emplaced in WIPP as of December 6, 2017, from 3,238,673 cubic feet to 2,307,708 cubic feet.

Thus, if approved, the new measurement would expand the amount of waste allowed by more than 930,000 cubic feet, or a more than 28 percent increase.

An unstated reason for the proposed measurement is that space for more than 1,000,000 cubic feet of waste has been forfeited or lost because of bad DOE management, poor contractor performance, and inefficiencies during the past 19 years of WIPP’s operations.

The public can submit comments so that the Environment Department either denies the request or considers it as a class 3 modification request. Class 3 modifications require more public participation and public hearings where witnesses would testify under oath and be cross-examined.

Permit regulations require such a Class 3 process when there is significant public concern, or if the change is complex, or when there is a 25 percent or greater increase in the facility storage capacity.

Don Hancock, of Southwest Research and Information Center, explained that through their comments the public can demonstrate significant public concern. He added, “Such a large expansion in the amount of waste at WIPP should require Congress to pass a law. Any such expansion certainly is not allowed as a Class 2 permit modification.”  http://www.sric.org/

Public comments can be submitted by Tuesday, April 3, 2018 by emailed to ricardo.maestas@state.nm.us or mailed to

Mr. Ricardo Maestas
New Mexico Environment Department
Hazardous Waste Bureau
2905 Rodeo Park Drive E, Building 1
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505

Here is a sample public comment letter for you to use: WIPP Amt of Waste PMR public comment 3-15-18

 

DOE Wants 50-Fold Plutonium Increase at LANL Rad Lab

After the release of the Trump Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, the Department of Energy (DOE) and its semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration released its own document to support a nearly 50-fold increase in plutonium use at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  DOE wants to increase the amount of plutonium used in its Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building (RLUOB) from 38.6 grams of plutonium-239 equivalent to 400 grams.  https://www.energy.gov/nepa/ea-2052-proposed-changes-analytical-chemistry-and-materials-characterization-radiological

The RLUOB is the only facility built under the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project.  The 2003 CMRR environmental impact statement restricted the amount of plutonium-equivalent allowed in the RULOB to 8.4 grams.  https://nnsa.energy.gov/sites/default/files/nnsa/multiplefiles/no._7_-_eis-0350-feis-2003.pdf, pdf p. 69, p. 2-19.  Nevertheless, DOE then gave itself permission to quadruple the amount from 8.4 grams to 38.6 grams without any opportunity for public review and comment as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).   http://nuclearactive.org/doe-considers-a-ten-fold-increase-of-plutonium-in-cmrr-rad-lab-at-lanl/

CCNS argues that any proposal to increase the amount of plutonium in the RLUOB must begin with the last NEPA document released for public review and comment.  That document is the 2003 environmental impact statement, which restricted the amount of plutonium to 8.4 grams.

Further, the RLUOB was not designed, nor equipped, to handle 38.6 grams of plutonium equivalent, let alone 400 grams.  The RLUOB was limited to 8.4 grams because the majority of plutonium work was planned for the Nuclear Facility, which was canceled in 2012 by the Obama Administration when project costs exploded from $600 million to $6.5 billion.

Despite the on-going serious concerns about plutonium operations at LANL, DOE is moving forward with the release of a draft environmental assessment for a 30-day public review and comment period.  Comments are currently due on Monday, March 26th, the day after Holy Week begins.

Scheduling a comment period during Passover and Easter is typical for DOE.   For example, a public comment period for open burning and open detonation of hazardous waste ended the day after Easter.  It is a sign of disrespect for many cultures and traditions in Northern New Mexico.

Obviously, the proposal is complicated and more time is needed for the comment period.  This week, Nuclear Watch New Mexico submitted a sign-on letter to DOE asking for a 60-day extension of time to submit comments.  They wrote, “Given the importance of the CMRR RLUOB and serious public interest, we believe that there will be a substantial number of citizens interested in providing public comment.”  They also asked DOE to hold a public meeting about the proposal.  NWNM RLUOB Sign-on Ltr 3-7-18

CCNS prepared a sample public comment letter you can use to make your own request.  CCNS sample RLUOB comment ltr 3-9-18

 

EPA and NMED, It’s Still Illegal to Discriminate!

Last Friday, in response to claims of discrimination, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) released three new policies for the public process in permitting polluting facilities.  Following a public process involving a hazardous waste facility in southeastern New Mexico where discriminatory permitting was evident, in 2002, Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (CARD), and two other groups, filed a successful civil rights complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  After 15 years, in January, 2017, EPA and the Environment Department settled the matter with an Informal Resolution Agreement, which required the creation of the three policies.  http://nuclearactive.org/card-civil-rights-complaint-to-epa-about-triassic-park-thirteen-years-and-no-resolution/ and http://nuclearactive.org/epa-reaches-informal-resolution-of-14-year-old-civil-rights-complaint-against-nmed/ Despite numerous requests to participate in the policy creation, CARD and other community groups were excluded from the process.  It shows.

In New Mexico, approximately 36 percent of the population speaks a language other than English at home.  One of the issues raised by CARD in its complaint was for people with limited English proficiency, public notices and key vital documents were not translated into the languages spoken in their homes and communities.

One of the new Environment Department’s policies, the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Accessibility and Outreach Policy, requires the Environment Department to provide LEP persons and populations “… substantially equal opportunities to learn about and participate in [the Environment Department’s] exchange and interaction with the public.”  Providing “substantially equal opportunities” is not the same as “fully equal opportunities.”  The new policy is clearly discriminatory under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

EPA approved the three policies, which are the Non-Employee Disability Accessibility and Outreach Policy, Public Participation, and the LEP Policy.  https://www.env.nm.gov/general/epa-and-nmed-informal-resolution-agreement-no-09r-02-r6-public-participation-limited-english-proficiency-and-non-employee-disability-policies/  Not only is the state government continuing to discriminate, but the federal government is supporting that discrimination in both the scope and the details of the policies.

Further, fees that facilities pay the Environment Department for a permit are dismal from the aspect of the taxpayer.  Huge facilities sometimes pay $100 for a permit, which does not even begin to adequately cover the Environment Department’s costs, let alone staff time.  The new policies allow the Environment Department to forego public outreach and providing necessary LEP services if they do not have the funding.

CARD is an Albuquerque based non-governmental organization that for decades has actively participated in permitting processes.  http://cardnm.org/  CARD is represented by Yale’s Environmental Justice Clinic, whose work includes cases and advocacy that advance environmental justice; https://law.yale.edu/studying-law-yale/clinical-and-experiential-learning/our-clinics/environmental-justice-clinic Earthjustice, a national non-profit environmental law organization; https://earthjustice.org/and the University of New Mexico’s Natural Resources and Environmental Law Clinic. http://lawschool.unm.edu/clinic/sections/natural-resources-and-environmental-law-clinic.html

Noel Marquez, of the Alliance for Environmental Strategies, based in Eddy County in southeast New Mexico, and one of people signing the original civil rights complaint with CARD, said, “I don’t know what planet [the Environment Department] is on, but there is no positive realistic working relationship between [it] and our communities, which are being sacrificed by a state government willing to allow our communities to be turned into radioactive waste dumps.”

He offered, “If [the Environment Department] were willing to start a relationship, we are always ready to respond, cooperate and volunteer our time to defend our lands and people, which we feel the state of New Mexico should be doing in their role if we aspire to be an honest democracy.”


Community Groups Outraged by New Mexico Environment Department’s Release of Policies

New Mexico Environment Department Releases Civil Rights Policies Without Public Input

(February 27, 2018 / Santa Fe & Eddy County, NM) On February 26, 2018, Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (CARD) and other community groups raised serious concerns about the New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) failure to include community voices before releasing new policies intended to comply with civil rights laws. CARD’s reaction came on the heels of the release by NMED of Public Participation and Limited English Proficiency (LEP) policies late Friday, February 23, that outline the agency’s plans to include New Mexican communities in the process for permitting industrial facilities.

To read the rest of the press release click here: ForImmediateRelease


Grupos comunitarios indignados con proceso exclusivo del Departamento de Ambiente de Nuevo México

Departamento de Ambiente de Nuevo México emite política sobre derechos civiles sin consultar al público

(27 de febrero de 2018 / Santa Fe & Eddy County, NM)  El 26 de febrero de 2018,Citizens Against Radioactive Dumping (CARD) y otros grupos comunitarios levantaron quejas serias que el Departamento de Ambiente de Nuevo México (NMED) no incluyera las voces de la comunidad antes de emitir nuevas políticas indicadas para cumplir con las leyes de derechos civiles. La reacción de CARD se hizo poco después de la emisión por el NMED de las políticas de Participación Pública y de Fluidez de Inglés Limitada (LEP) en la tarde del viernes 23 de febrero, las cuales bosquejan los planes de la agencia para incluir las comunidades de Nuevo México a lo largo del proceso de permiso para los establecimientos industriales.

Para leer el resto del comunicado de prensa haga clic aquí: For Immediate Release en Espanol

 

Trinity Downwinders Benefit on Sunday, March 11th in Albuquerque

You are cordially invited to attend the First Annual Benefit for the Trinity Downwinders on Sunday, March 11th from 2 to 7 pm at the Albuquerque Moose Lodge.  Featured local artists include Roberto Perea, Freddie Chavez, Paul Pino and the Tone Daddies, No Complaints, and Franc Chewiwie and the Latin Jazz Allstars.  The artists and the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium are joining together to raise funds to send a New Mexico delegation to Washington, DC to testify before Congress in support of the proposed amendments to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) that would include the Trinity Downwinders.  Currently, the Downwinders are not eligible for compensation because they are not included in RECA.  Hearings may be scheduled this spring or summer.

The Downwinders will testify about the over exposure to radiation they received following the July 16, 1945 atomic bomb test and the resulting health hazards it had, and continues to have, on the people who have lived in and around the Trinity Test Site.

The Downwinders documented the harm in their 2017 health impact assessment, entitled, “Unknowing, Unwilling, and Uncompensated:  The Effects of the Trinity Test on New Mexicans and the Potential Benefits of a Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) Amendment.”  https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/health-impact-assessment

Between the musical acts, presentations about RECA will be made.  RECA was created in 1990 and has paid out over $2.2 billion dollars in compensation and health care to Downwinders in parts of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona, but not to New Mexico Downwinders.  RECA provides the best health care coverage available with no limits, deductibles, or co-payments.  https://www.justice.gov/civil/common/reca

New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and Congresspeople Michelle Lujan Grisham, Steve Pearce, and Ben Ray Lujan all support the proposed RECA amendments to include the Trinity Downwinders.  https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/197/text and https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2049/related-bills

The wonderful musicians include:  Native Albuquerquean Roberto Perea now plays guitar and piano in Austin, Texas and is recording his music at Spitshine Recording Studio.  Freddie Chavez sings with the Freddie Chavez Foundation.  https://www.freddiechavezsings.com/ Paul Pino and the Tone Daddies play a variety of original songs that have been included on three of KANW Radio’s “Best of New Mexico” CDs.  http://paulpino.com/tone-daddies/  Formed last August, No Complaints is an eight-piece multi-cultural ministry team committed to providing a spirited bilingual message of hope and encouragement to audiences often judged, forgotten and/or written off.  Franc Chewiwie is an international pianist and recording artist, composer, bandleader, and publisher.  He plays piano with The Latin Jazz Allstars.

Tina Cordova, co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, is grateful to the musical artists who are donating their time and talents.  She said, “There are amazingly generous people in this world who see the value of what we are trying to achieve, which is bringing back the justice we’ve been waiting for all these many years.  Every dollar raised or donated is important and very appreciated.  When we show up at the hearings with eight to ten people who represent the New Mexico Downwinders, it will have true impact.”

The Albuquerque Moose Lodge is located at 2121 Edith Boulevard, Northeast.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Loyal-Order-of-Moose-Lodges/117439954941628  Tickets are available by calling 505-235-3427.  There will be a silent auction.  Table sponsorships are available, which include live acknowledgements at the benefit, as well as acknowledgement in the materials submitted to Congress.  For more information, please visit trinitydownwinders.com/

 

LANL Outfall 051 Must Be Eliminated from Clean Water Act Permit

CCNS is challenging an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Water Act permit that allows a daily discharge of up to 40,000 gallons of treated water from the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) through Outfall 051.  https://www.env.nm.gov/swqb/NPDES/Permits/NM0028355-LANL.pdf  The facility treats radioactive, hazardous, and toxic liquid waste and then stores the drums of sludge containing hazardous waste.  It would normally be regulated by the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act, which calls for detailed regulation and provides for enhanced public participation.  But, under an EPA rule, called the Wastewater Treatment Unit exemption, if a facility is regulated under a Clean Water Act permit, that facility is exempt from the Hazardous Waste Act.

Nevertheless, since November 2011, no discharge has occurred from Outfall 051.  In order to have coverage under the Clean Water Act, there must be a discharge.  Over seven years ago, LANL began its zero-discharge system by evaporating the discharge into the air.

LANL has struggled to keep the Clean Water Act exemption.  In a 1998 report about conversion to a zero-discharge system, LANL acknowledged that if it stopped discharging through Outfall 051, it could lose the exemption, and the “[L]oss of this exemption would mean that the [Facility] would be required to meet additional [hazardous waste] regulatory guidelines regarding waste treatment practices.  … The [Facility] would need to manage the [pollutants] in the waste stream and so have much better knowledge of, and control over, waste discharged to it for treatment.”  It also acknowledged that enhanced public participation would be required.

The New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act and its regulations provide a higher level of regulation of the facility.  The regulations are very specific about protecting human health and the environment from the generation, handling, treatment, and storage of hazardous waste and providing information to the public.  Specifically, close regulation of the operation of the entire liquid waste system, including all the pipes and systems that deliver liquid waste to the treatment facility, the facility itself, and the pipes and tanks that are downstream are required.

In June 2016, CCNS, through its attorneys, Jon Block with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, and Lindsay A. Lovejoy, requested EPA’s Region 6 office in Dallas to terminate Outfall 051 from the permit.  http://nmelc.org/ and http://lindsaylovejoy.com/  In August 2017, EPA denied CCNS’s request.  In September, CCNS appealed the Region 6 denial to the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board in Washington, DC.  The Board scheduled an oral argument for Thursday, February 22, 2018, in Washington, DC.

Lindsay Lovejoy, who will be arguing CCNS’s case, said, “This facility should be subject to the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.”

 

CCNS Oral Argument before EAB to Terminate LANL Outfall

In late January, the Environmental Appeals Board determined an oral argument would assist the Board in its deliberations about the Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) appeal to terminate a discharge pipe at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) from the Clean Water Act industrial permit.  The hearing is scheduled for Thursday, February 22nd in Washington, DC.

The pipe, known as Outfall 051, discharged liquids from the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility from 1963 until November, 2010.  Under the Clean Water Act, a facility must have a discharge in order to receive a permit.  Even though no discharge has occurred in over seven years, Outfall 051 remains on the permit.

The treatment facility receives liquid wastes from facilities which handle radioactive, toxic and hazardous materials from across LANL, including the closely located Plutonium Facility.  Most of the liquid wastes are generated by nuclear weapons research, development and manufacturing.

The current permit allows for the discharge of 40,000 gallons per day of treated liquids into a small canyon that flows into Mortandad Canyon.  Since LANL adopted zero discharge, it uses a mechanical system to evaporate treated water into the air.

Leaving the outfall on the permit has serious impacts.  The treatment facility manages drums of hazardous waste.  It would normally be regulated by the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act, which calls for detailed regulation and provides for enhanced public participation.  But, under an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule, called the Wastewater Treatment Unit exemption, if a facility is regulated under a Clean Water Act permit, that facility is exempt from the Hazardous Waste Act.

LANL has struggled to keep this exemption.  In a 1998 report about conversion to a zero-discharge system, LANL acknowledged that if it stopped discharging through Outfall 051, it could lose the exemption, and the “[L]oss of this exemption would mean that the [Facility] would be required to meet additional [hazardous waste] regulatory guidelines regarding waste treatment practices.  … The [Facility] would need to manage the [pollutants] in the waste stream and so have much better knowledge of, and control over, waste discharged to it for treatment.”  It also acknowledged that enhanced public participation would be required.

In June 2016, CCNS, through its attorneys, Jon Block with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, and Lindsay A. Lovejoy, requested EPA to terminate Outfall 051 from the permit.  In August 2017, EPA denied CCNS’s request.  In September, CCNS appealed the denial to the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board in Washington, DC.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, “Your support for this important and essential work is greatly appreciated.  To make a tax-deductible contribution, please visit our website at nuclearactive.org.  Thank you!”

 

Proposed Amendments Would Store High-Level Radioactive Waste in New Mexico and West Texas and Accelerate Yucca Mountain Licensing

Proposed amendments to the federal Nuclear Waste Policy Act would accelerate two proposals to bring some of the nation’s commercial high-level radioactive waste to New Mexico and West Texas.  Congressman John Shimkus introduced the proposed amendments which would accelerate thousands of shipments of spent fuel rods on trucks, rail, and barges.  The bill, numbered H.R. 3053, would also restart the forced licensing of Yucca Mountain, a Department of Energy (DOE) site located 90 miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada, in a seismic and volcano-ridden area.  It is interesting that Congressman Shimkus represents Illinois, which has the largest number of nuclear power plants in the nation, with 11.  https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3053

Both privately held corporations, Holtec, International, and Waste Control Specialists, LLC (WCS), have submitted license applications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for consolidated interim storage facilities.  The Shimkus bill brings back a term from the past – “monitored retrievable storage,” or MRS, to describe these proposed facilities.  If approved, the bill would allow some, but not all, of the waste currently stored at nuclear power plants around the country, to be shipped to New Mexico or the WCS facility on the Texas-New Mexico border.

Holtec is asking to store 100,000 tons of plutonium fuel at a site halfway between Hobbs and Carlsbad, New Mexico, in Lea County.  WCS is asking to store 40,000 tons of plutonium fuel at its hazardous, toxic and radioactive storage and disposal dump located in Andrews County, five miles east of Eunice, New Mexico.

Last Friday, WCS announced a private equity firm, J.F. Lehman & Co., bought the 14,900-acre facility.  Lehman also owns NorthStar Group Services, a nuclear decommissioning specialist, that could supply a pipeline of waste to WCS.

Despite DOE spending millions of taxpayer dollars to explore Yucca Mountain, it is not a viable solution for disposing of high-level radioactive waste.  Even though some people hope Yucca Mountain would open, the transportation threats alone would impact millions living along the truck and rail transportation routes over a period of 50 years.  See State of Nevada’s January 24, 2018 powerpoint presentation, Yucca Mountain Update and Transportation Impacts, to the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting, Washington, DC at http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/news2018/pdf/nanp180124mayors_conf.pdf

The Shimkus bill continues the policy of the 1987 Nuclear Waste Policy Act to deny Nevada a voice.  The 1987 law designated Yucca Mountain as the only proposed site for DOE to study as a geologic repository.   Another bill, H.R. 456, called the Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act, would give consent options to Nevada and affected local and tribal governments regarding Yucca Mountain.  https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/456  For Nevada’s analysis, please see, State of Nevada’s Comments on Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, H.R. 3053,” by Robert Halstead, Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, dated January 19, 2018 at https://titus.house.gov/sites/titus.house.gov/files/wysiwyg_uploaded/NV%20NWPAA%20Final%20Comments.pdf

Joni Arends, of CCNS, urged the public to, “Please contact your congress people to urge them to oppose H.R. 3053, the Shimkus bill, and support H.R. 456, the Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act.”