U.S. Senate and House Support Recovery Funding for WIPP
CCNS NEWS UPDATE
Runs 6/20/14 through 6/27/14
(THEME UP AND UNDER) This is the CCNS News Update, an overview of the latest nuclear safety issues, brought to you every week by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. Here is this week’s top headline:
* U.S. Senate and House Support Recovery Funding for WIPP
This week members of a U.S. Senate subcommittee appropriated $220 million for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and added $102 million to try to get the nuclear bomb waste facility back up and running. The House Appropriations Committee also provided additional funding for WIPP, but did so by cutting cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), another Department of Energy (DOE) facility located in New Mexico. House and Senate negotiators eventually must agree on funding amounts that could take effect on October 1, 2014.
The additional recovery funding was approved without DOE providing a cleanup plan and schedule. New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, a member of both the Senate Appropriations subcommittee and committee, was frustrated that DOE had not provided an updated cost estimate. He said, “I still need that so I can make my best case for an increase in funding. There’s still a feeling that we haven’t received a detailed recovery plan so we’re going to keep pushing for the [DOE] and the Secretary [Ernest Moniz] to provide that.” http://www.tomudall.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=1695
The Senate subcommittee also funded nuclear weapons work at LANL that will continue to generate transuranic waste, destined for the now-closed WIPP. The Senate appropriated $35.7 million for upgrades to the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Radiological Laboratory and $3.8 million for the design of a new CMRR modular approach. The funding fully supports the Life Extension Program for the B61 nuclear weapon at LANL and Sandia. DOE defines the life extension program as one “to repair/replace components of nuclear weapons to ensure the ability to meet military requirements,” so that “a weapon can safely and reliably remain in the stockpile without having to be replaced or removed.” Both programs will create plutonium-contaminated nuclear and hazardous waste that, with the closure of WIPP, has no place to go.
In 2011, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez approved a Framework Agreement with DOE and LANL to prioritize the removal of transuranic waste to WIPP by June 30, 2014. http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/documents/LANL_Framework_Agreement.pdf Due to the WIPP closure, that project has been put on hold.
The Framework Agreement also prioritized monitoring storm water that flows from LANL to the Rio Grande, and monitoring groundwater that includes the chromium plume that is directly west of Santa Fe’s drinking water wells.
The LANL cleanup work is now in jeopardy because the House cut $45 million and that funding would go towards WIPP recovery.
Joni Arends, of CCNS, said, “Congress always finds funding for nuclear weapons work at LANL. When will cleanup that will protect our precious water from the mess that began over 70 years ago be the priority?”
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