Public Comments Needed to Stop WIPP Expansion

On April 24, the New Mexico Environment Department prejudicially  authorized construction of a new shaft at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  The Department of Energy (DOE) immediately started digging the shaft.  Seven weeks later, the Environment Department released a draft permit for construction of the shaft for public comment.  The Environment Department action to authorize the construction has tainted the required public review, comment, and hearing process about whether the shaft should be permitted.  The authorization also ignored almost 300 comments submitted in 2019, more than 97 percent of which opposed DOE’s expansion plans and asked that the new shaft permit be denied.

Public comments are due to the Environment Department on or before Tuesday, August 11th.  Sample public comment letter are available here: WIPP Shaft public comment letter 7-15-20

Meanwhile, DOE is near completion of a New Filter Building that will provide over 100 percent of the fresh air that is needed by the workers.  It is scheduled to be completed in the next year.  The New Filter Building was needed after one or more drums of plutonium-contaminated waste exploded in the underground on February 14, 2014.  The explosion contaminated portions of the mine, including the existing exhaust shaft, and contaminated 22 workers on the surface.  As a result, workers need to wear personal protective equipment and ventilators in the contaminated mine.

On January 16, 2020, DOE applied for a temporary authorization to construct the shaft as a ventilation shaft.  They claimed that they needed the authorization to start digging the shaft because it would take 37 months to complete the project.  Even though the Environment Department knows the New Filter Building will be up and running within a year, they approved the new shaft construction along with new drifts and tunnels to connect it to the existing disposal system.

WIPP is a pilot plant located in salt beds 2,150 feet below ground surface to dispose of plutonium-contaminated waste from fabricating nuclear weapons.  It opened in 1999 and is scheduled to close in 2024.  It is located 26 miles east of Carlsbad.

If NMED does not stop DOE from digging, the new shaft would allow new underground rooms that could more than double the disposal area because the existing, permitted panels will be filled in a few years.

The new shaft is all about expanding WIPP for more waste than legally allowed and new types of waste, including high-level radioactive waste from Hanford, Washington and other sites; commercial waste from West Valley, New York; weapons-grade plutonium from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina; and 50 years of waste from building new nuclear weapons.

A listing of upcoming Trinity, Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75th Commemoration Events is available here.  CCNS 75th Commemoration Events 7-16-20


1.  TONIGHT at 6 pm:  Nuclear Information Study Group – We Are NOT A Wasteland! Episode 4:  From Shinkolobwe to Tsankawi.  This is a special webinar connecting uranium mining in Congo for the Manhattan Project to the Trinity Test and LANL.  Guests will be zooming from Cape Town, South Africa, Kinshasa, and Rwanda and joined by Beata Tsosie-Pena, Tewa Women United, and Tina Cordova, Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium.


2.  Monday, July 20th – Comments due to NRC about their proposal to allow for disposal of radioactive waste in municipal landfills. The latest proposal is called “Very Low-Level Radioactive” (VLLR) Waste.  In the mid-1990s it was called “Below Regulatory Concern,” or BRC.  A sample public comment you can use is here.  VLLW Comments due 7-20-20 Please submit to:


3.  Sunday, August 2nd to Sunday, August 9th – virtual National Convention of Veterans for Peace. The convention theme is “Human Rights over Nuclear Might.”  The New Mexico plenary will take place on Sunday, August 2nd in mid-afternoon.  Stay tuned for details.  To learn more about VFP’s National Convention, go to:


4.  Thursday, August 6th at 8 pm EST; 6 pm MST; 5 pm PST –75th Commemoration Hiroshima Day Live One-Hour Online Webinar, hosted by the New Mexico 75th Commemoration of Hiroshima/Nagasaki Committee and Pace e Bene. CCNS is an organizer and co-sponsor of the event. The webinar is free.  Please register or check the website closer to the event date for more information.


5.  August 6th – August 9th – Fasting around the world for nuclear disarmament! The message is:  Nuclear disarmament must happen now!  Join the Fast!  Demand that your country signs the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons!  For more information, visit  or email Dominique Lalanne, <>


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