WIPP Opened 25 Years Ago; It Was Supposed to Close Next Week

Did you know that on Friday, March 26, 1999, the first shipment of plutonium-contaminated nuclear weapons waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) reached the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)?

Earlier that week, on Monday, March 22, 1999, Federal Judge John Garrett Penn lifted a seven-year injunction allowing the shipment of purely radioactive waste to WIPP.  The shipment did not contain any hazardous waste.  In fact it wasn’t even Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons waste.  It was NASA waste from the production of the plutonium batteries for the Cassini space vehicle.

On Tuesday, March 23rd, LANL loaded waste drums into the three TRUPACT shipping containers.

On Wednesday, March 24th, final testing was done and the truck and trailer with three TRUPACTS was ready.

Peaceful protesters with signs had gathered at the intersection of Airport Road and 599 on the south side of Santa Fe.  National Guard, police and other security personnel dressed in combat gear lined the intersection for about a block in each direction.  Black Hawk helicopters flew over the area.  A little snow fell.  Nevertheless, tensions were high.

LANL checked the weather conditions and it was determined that the shipment could not leave LANL.  To ship, a five-hour clear weather window was required.  A dense fog had developed around Santa Rosa, New Mexico and the shipment did not depart from LANL.

LANL tried again, successfully, on Thursday, March 25th.  Again peaceful protesters and security personnel were at the intersection.

Early on the morning of Friday, March 26th, the shipment arrived at WIPP to cheers from those waiting to see the truck and trailer.  https://www.energy.gov/em/articles/fight-wipp-history-nations-deep-geologic-nuclear-waste-repository

Prior to the arrival of the first shipment at WIPP, DOE had promised the People of New Mexico that it would clean up all the transuranic, or plutonium-contaminated, waste across the nuclear weapons complex, including LANL, and dispose of it in the underground salt bed at WIPP in 25 years and begin a 10-year closure of the facility.   For example:  http://nuclearactive.org/elected-officials-question-doe-plans-to-keep-wipp-operating-forever/ (Aug. 11, 2022); http://nuclearactive.org/doe-breaks-its-promises-to-new-mexico-part-i/ (Jan. 12, 2021); and http://nuclearactive.org/doe-breaks-its-promises-to-new-mexico-part-2/ (Jan. 19, 2021).

Next Tuesday, March 26, 2024, is the 25-year deadline.  But DOE and WIPP will not make its deadline.  In fact, DOE plans to keep WIPP open until 2083, basically forever, for LANL waste from fabricating new and provocative nuclear weapons.  https://www.currentargus.com/story/news/politics/2024/03/21/wipp-will-receive-waste-until-2083-d-waste-site-near-carlsbad-to-double-in-size-take-waste-until-208/72986011007/ ; “Stop ‘Forever WIPP’” presentation by Don Hancock, of Southwest Research and Information Center, before the New Mexico Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee, on July 14, 2021 in Carlsbad.  https://www.nmlegis.gov/handouts/RHMC%20071421%20Item%202%20Southwest%20Research%20and%20Information%20Center.pdf ; and https://losalamosreporter.com/2019/04/12/lanl-first-shipment-from-rant-facility-to-wipp-in-five-years-successfully-completed/

The Stop Forever WIPP Coalition, of which CCNS is a member, has been working to limit WIPP expansion.  To learn more, please visit https://stopforeverwipp.org/

To witness the early days of public opposition to the opening of WIPP, please view the 1990 documentary entitled The WIPP Trail by Penelope Place and Gay Dillingham on the Internet Archive.  https://archive.org/details/AV_427-THE_WIPP_TRAIL

  1. Friday, March 22, 2024 from noon to 1 pm MT – Join the weekly peaceful protest for nuclear disarmament on the four corners of Alameda and Sandoval in downtown Santa Fe with Veterans for Peace, CCNS, Nuclear Watch NM, Loretto Community, Pax Christi, Nonviolent Santa Fe, New Mexico Peace Fests, and others. Join us!



  1. Thursday, March 21st at 6 pm Mountain Time – Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) Night with the Experts: Mary Beth Brangan, Producer/Director; James Heddle, Director/Director of Photography; and Morgan Peterson, Director/Editor speaking on How Cinema Can Counter Nuclear Revivalism:  Featuring their award-winning film SOS [The San Onofre Syndrome: Nuclear Power’s Legacy].  For more information and to register:  https://mailchi.mp/efb9db20e90c/optdwdhz7v-15553063?e=999f866a73



  1. Saturday, March 23rd at 1:15 pm – New Mexico PeaceFest, along with Veterans for Peace and the Raging Grannies will hold an anti-nuke demonstration on the southwest corner of Mountain Road and 19th Street, outside the Albuquerque Museum. This event is in conjunction with the Albuquerque Museum exhibit on Nuclear Communities of the Southwesthttps://www.cabq.gov/artsculture/albuquerque-museum/exhibitions/nuclear-communities-of-the-southwest  Please join us!  Let’s show Albuquerque that there is strong opposition to the ongoing and ever-expanding mission of producing more and more nuclear weapons, and more and more radioactive waste to irradiate our state.

At 2:00 pm that day, the museum will host a discussion exploring the long-term impacts of the 1945 Trinity Test on communities in New Mexico, led by downwinders Tina Cordova and Paul Pino. A few minutes before 2:00, we demonstrators will leave the corner and enter the museum to hear the discussion.

Following the discussion, we will MARCH to and around Old Town plaza with our signs and banners, and end back at the museum parking lot.  For more information:  https://abqpeacefest.org/



  1. Tuesday, March 26th25th anniversary of the first plutonium transuranic waste shipment arrived at WIPP for disposal. The first shipment was from LANL and contained plutonium contaminated waste from fabricating the batteries for the NASA Cassini spacecraft trip to Saturn – not nuclear weapons waste.

 For over a decade (at least) before WIPP opened, DOE had claimed that all of DOE’s plutonium transuranic contaminated nuclear weapons waste would be cleaned up across its nuclear weapons complex and WIPP would be closed in 25 years, or by March 26, 2024.  That did not happen due to mismanagement, accidents and releases.  DOE now plans to keep WIPP open until 2083 at the earliest.  For more information:  https://stopforeverwipp.org/  



  1. Thursday, March 28th at 6 pm MT – webinar about the new documentary RADIOACTIVE: The Women of Three Mile Island with the director Heidi Hutner and her team: 
  • Anna Rondon, who is Diné and founder of the New Mexico Social Justice and Equity Institute;
  • Krystal Curley, who is Diné and director of Indigenous Life Ways;
  • Mary Olson, founder of the Gender and Radiation Impact Project; and
  • Professor Mark Jacobson, Stanford University.
  • Cindy Folkers, of Beyond Nuclear, will moderate.

 The Sierra Club and Beyond Nuclear host the webinar.



  1. From Wednesday, March 6 to May 15 (Bi- Weekly) from noon to 1 pm Mountain Time – UNM Climate Change and Human Health ECHO Program: Global Nuclear and Environmental Threats Critical to Climate Change and Human Health. 

On Wednesday, April 3 (a 90-minute session), Environmental Justice and Nuclear Harms Panel with

    • Douglas Brugge, PhD, MS – UCONN Health, Dept. of Public Health Sciences, environmental and occupational health;
    • Ryan Edgington, PhD – Project ECHO Senior Program Manager – New Mexico Health Program Team, UNM Health Science Center
    • Jacqueline Cabasso – Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation, Mayors for Peace
    • Marylia Kelley – Senior Advisor for the Livermore Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
    • Tina Cordova, MSc, BSc – Trinity Downwinders, Co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium

For more information and registration: https://iecho.org/echo-institute-programs/climate-change-and-human-health



  1. Saturday, April 6th beginning at 9:30 am in Tesuque – The first annual Plutonium Trail Caravan will recognize the WIPP transportation route from Tesuque to Lamy (where the Manhattan Project scientists got off the train to develop the atomic bombs at LANL). Save the Date!

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