WIPP Hazardous Waste Permit Renewal Coming Soon

Did you know the hazardous waste permit for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is up for its ten-year renewal?  In August, the New Mexico Environment Department may release a draft permit for public review and a 60-day comment period.  https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/ , scroll down to March 17, 2022 entry about the Updated Redline/Strikeout Permit Renewal Application [AR 220321].

One of the big issues is the date WIPP will stop receiving radioactive and hazardous waste generated by the fabrication of plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons for disposal in the underground mine located 26 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico.  The current permit states waste shipments would end in 2024 with closure of the site expected to take ten years, until 2034 or so.  Closure includes filling the 2,200-foot deep shafts into the underground facility.  https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/  and  https://hwbdocuments.env.nm.gov/Waste%20Isolation%20Pilot%20Plant/220200/220200%20WIPP%20Permit%20PDF/Attachment%20G%2002-2022.pdf

In 1999, the federal Department of Energy (DOE), the owner of WIPP, promised the People of New Mexico that it would clean up all the plutonium contaminated, or transuranic, waste throughout the national nuclear weapons complex in 25-years and close WIPP.  https://www-archive.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp-archived-news/

The U.S. Congress and DOE have always known that WIPP’s limited capacity cannot handle all the nuclear weapons waste.  But DOE has no plans and has taken no action to find and build other regional repositories so that the burdens of nuclear weapons fabrication would be shared across the country.

On May 13, 2022, the Environment Department issued a Technical Incompleteness Determination (TID) for the Permit Renewal Application.  May 13, 2022 Permit Renewal TID [AR 220512]   On June 27th, 2022, DOE stated to the Environment Department that it plans to continue to dispose of waste at WIPP until at least 2083. June 27, 2022 45-Day TID Response [AR 220626]  On July 12th, DOE also stated that it objects to any discussion of other repositories in the permit renewal process.  July 12, 2022 60-Day TID Response [AR 220709]

What would a 60-year extension mean to you?  It means that waste could continue to be transported through much of New Mexico for decades, putting health, safety and property at risk.  It means that New Mexico does not have the same rights to say “enough” as Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, and Nevada did, which prevented those states from being the only repository.

DOE’s “forever” WIPP is not inevitable.  If you’ve been involved with WIPP before, please make public comments on the draft permit.  You can also support organizations that are working to prevent that future and oppose major provisions of DOE’s renewal application.

If you haven’t been involved with WIPP, it’s time to get involved!  Please visit the Stop Forever WIPP website.  https://stopforeverwipp.org/

Please also watch the recent YouTube video by Bob Aly, of Available Media, of the July 7th WIPP Community Forum and Open House “fiasco” in Santa Fe.  Aly juxtaposes events at the meeting with the unpublished letter to the editor by long-time WIPP activist, Sasha Pyle.  https://stopforeverwipp.org/videos-and-documents and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4Xr_pPnGtM

  1. You have heard about it or read about it, now you can view it: The July 7th Fiasco DOE/WIPP “Community Forum and Open House” presentation and video recording at https://wipp.energy.gov/presentations.asp



  1. Available Media’s informative version of the July 7th Fiasco – The Meeting that Wasn’t a Meeting – at https://stopforeverwipp.org/videos-and-documents and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4Xr_pPnGtM



  1. Thursday, July 21st from 6 to 8 pm – Kirtland Air Force Base Bulk Fuels Facility Open House – in person event. For more information, please contact Brannon Lamar at 377 Air Base Wing Public Affairs at (505) 846-5991 or by email at 377ABW.PA@us.af.mil



  1. Friday, July 22nd from noon to 1 pm – Join the weekly peaceful protest for nuclear disarmament on the corners of Alameda and Guadalupe in downtown Santa Fe. Celebrate the successful historic First Meeting of State Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and talk about next steps!



  1. Saturday, August 6th from noon to 2 pm at Ashley Pond in Los Alamos – the Santa Fe Chapter of Veterans for Peace will host the 77th commemoration of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. Wage Peace and Nuclear Abolition!  Stay tuned here for more details.     



  1. Tuesday, August 9th at 5:15 pm Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and Panel Discussion with Prominent Interfaith Leaders at 6:15 pm. Join Most Rev. John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe.  His homily will be centered on his pastoral letter on nuclear disarmament, “Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace:  A Conversation Toward Nuclear Disarmament.”  For more information,  https://archdiosf.org/living-in-the-light-of-christs-peace  or contact the Office of Social Justice & Respect Life at (505) 831-8205.

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