Help us help you. We graciously accept donations to assist our organization in protecting all living beings and the environment from the effects of radioactive and other hazardous materials now and in the future.
Make a one-time contribution by using the "Donate" button:
This week is the 65th Anniversary of the launch of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto that called for global patriotism. On July 9, 1955, the short document composed by Lord Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein argued that nuclear weapons put the human species at risk. Since no one wishes for the human race to disappear, it proposed that the world needed an agreement not to go to war. The Manifesto asks, “What steps can be taken to prevent a military contest … [that] must be disastrous to all parties?” https://pugwash.org/1955/07/09/statement-manifesto/ and reading of the Manifesto https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSvjr44FqXU
The first step, according to Russell and Einstein, is for us to set aside our political opinions about issues that lead to conflicts, whether at the level of nation, continent or creed and instead consider ourselves “only as members of a biological species which has had a remarkable history.” They say, “We have to learn to think in a new way.” That is, instead of planning for a military victory, we must work toward prevention of armed conflict.
Russell and Einstein point out that sometimes the language people use makes them resist the idea that we must totally prevent nuclear war. They use the vague phrase of “a threat to mankind” or “to the human race,” instead of undertanding that “they, individually, and those whom they love are in imminent danger of perishing agonizingly.”
Russell and Einstein propose that we must also think in a new way about the damage from nuclear weapons. While the Manifesto grants that a general reduction in stockpiles of arms serves an important purpose, such as has been accomplished by nuclear arms control treaties in the 65 years since the Manifesto, it insists that we move to a more universal position and demand that our conflicts not be decided by war. In 1955, Russell and Einstein knew that a single bomb could be “2,500 times as powerful as that which destroyed Hiroshima” and that lethal radioactive particles “sink gradually and reach…the earth in the form of a deadly dust or rain,” leading to widespread disease and death.
Russell and Einsein appeal to us as human beings to “remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise, if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”
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 7-20-20Please submit to: VLLWTransferComments.Resource@nrc.gov
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: https://www.veteransforpeace.org/2020-annual-convention
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. https://paceebene.org/hiroshimaday2020
The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium will commemorate those who have lost their lives due to overexposure to high levels of ionizing radiation from the first atomic bomb test in south central New Mexico. The U.S. Government exploded the Trinity plutonium bomb on the morning of Monday, July 16th, 1945, at 5:29 am, at what is now known as the White Sands Missile Range. The damage done has yet to be recognized by the U.S. Government.
The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, also known as the Trinity Downwinders, are hosting the memorial event on Thursday, July 16th, beginning at 5:20 am to commemorate those who have lost their lives. It will take place outside at Civic Plaza in downtown Albuquerque. The event will be live streamed. For more information, please visit https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/ .
At 5:29 am, they will acknowledge the dropping of the bomb 75 years ago. After introductory remarks, the names of those who have lost their lives will be read with musical interludes.
At 9 am, Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales and other dignitaries will join and provide comments.
If you would like to add the name of family members or friends who have lost their lives as a result of overexposure to the Trinity test, please email the Trinity Downwinders at email@example.com before Monday, July 13th.
The Trinity bomb was the first bomb of its kind. It was over packed with 13 pounds of weapons grade plutonium. When it was exploded, only three pounds fissioned and the other 10 pounds were distributed into the environment and into the bodies of people and animals. Because the test took place on a 100-foot tall tower, the force of the blast enveloped the vegetation, sand, and dirt, and took it up into the fireball that rose over seven miles into the stratosphere. The plume stratified, dividing into layers and moving at different heights and in different directions over the desert of New Mexico, dropping radioactive fallout as it moved. One can picture the stratifications if you recall how the hot air balloons move through the “box” during the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.
As a result of the damage that was done, the U.S. Government began creating its false narrative about the test. Scientists and officials at Project Y, the name of Los Alamos National Laboratory during the Manhattan Project where the bomb was fabricated, said the impacted area was “remote and uninhabited.” Nevertheless, U.S. Census data from 1940 indicate that tens of thousands of people lived, farmed, hunted, and raised families within a 50-mile radius of the test.
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: VLLWTransferComments.Resource@nrc.gov
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: https://www.veteransforpeace.org/2020-annual-convention
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. https://paceebene.org/hiroshimaday2020
On Tuesday, June 23rd, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a webinar and invited telephone comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for a nuclear waste storage facility that Holtec proposes to build halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs. Holtec applied for a license to store all of the nation’s most radioactive spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants. Over twenty years, Holtec proposes to ship 10,000 canisters to the site by railroads, passing through more than forty states. https://www.nrc.gov/waste/spent-fuel-storage/cis/holtec-international.html, scroll down to Environmental Impact Statement.
In 2012, officials in Eddy and Lea counties announced that a private company would submit a license application in March 2013. In December 2015, Holtec told the NRC that it would submit the license application in June 2016, so that the facility could begin operating in 2020. The application was submitted in March 2017, and stated that NRC’s license would be issued in 2019 and that construction would begin by March 2020. https://wethefourth.org/
The webinar was the first comment meeting on the DEIS. Many commenters requested that, because of the pandemic, face-to-face meetings be held after the discovery of a vaccine. For five and a-half hours, people from more than a dozen states weighed the benefits to New Mexico of waste storage against its potential hazards and considered what it would mean for the state.
Many commenters stated that the storage could be permanent because there is no disposal site. They reminded the NRC that this is why the law requires that a permanent repository be selected before the designation of an interim facility like Holtec, and this has not been done. They pointed out that the DEIS considers impacts for forty years, while Holtec plans to operate the facility for at least 120 years. Others noted that the DEIS rejected consideration of improved storage at or near the nuclear plants, so the only alternative considered was the Holtec site, even though the law requires consideration of all reasonable alternatives.
Many commenters, reflecting on racial and environmental justice, felt that New Mexico, as one of the poorest states in the nation, is being considered a “throwaway” state for waste that others don’t want. Both James Kenney, Secretary of the Environment Department, and Sarah Cottrell Propst, Secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, found the DEIS technically inadequate for many reasons and reiterated that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham strongly opposes the project. NM Governor Holtec Ltr 060719
Do You Know about the Upcoming Commemoration Events for Trinity, Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
1. Thursday, July 16th Commemoration of the July 16, 1945 – first atomic bomb test at the Trinity site in southcentral New Mexico. Details will be available soon. https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/
2. 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: https://www.veteransforpeace.org/2020-annual-convention
3. 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. https://paceebene.org/hiroshimaday2020
In 2018, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held five public meetings throughout New Mexico about the environmental analysis for the proposed Holtec facility because it plans to store high-level radioactive waste in the southeastern corner of the state. Packed meetings were held in Albuquerque, Carlsbad, Gallup, Hobbs, and Roswell about what issues would be included in the required environmental impact statement. NRC’s draft statement is out now for public review. Comments are due by Wednesday, July 22nd. https://www.nrc.gov/waste/spent-fuel-storage/cis/holtec-international.html, scroll down to Environmental Impact Statement. The Albuquerque-based Nuclear Issues Study Group (NISG) has prepared a sample letter SampleCommentLetter061820 and …
Remember to add your personal comments in Paragraph 2 and sign your name at the end.
But the NRC will have to extend the comment period because it has made a commitment to hold five public meetings in New Mexico, but has not yet done so.
At the beginning of the global pandemic, the five members of the New Mexico congressional delegation requested extensions of the public comment period from the NRC. The Congressional delegation wrote: “Allowing for full public participation, as [the National Environmental Policy Act] requires, is particularly important for projects involving nuclear waste. Any proposal to store commercial spent nuclear fuel raises a number of health, safety and environmental issues, including potential impacts on local agriculture and industry, issues related to the transportation of nuclear waste, and disproportionate impacts on Native American communities.” NM delegation on DEIS extension
The NRC Chairwoman responded stating the NRC staff would hold “a national webinar and five public meetings in New Mexico during the public comment period” to present its preliminary findings and receive public comments.
Holtec International proposes to bring as much as 173,000 metric tons of highly radioactive spent plutonium fuel from commercial nuclear power plants to a massive consolidated interim storage facility located half way between Carlsbad and Hobbs. This waste is more than twice the amount of spent fuel currently stored at U.S. nuclear power plants. Holtec must obtain an NRC license to construct such a facility. The draft statement is part of that process.
To operate the facility, Holtec expects the federal government will take legal title of the waste and pay for storage and transportation costs. Beyond Nuclear, a Maryland based non-governmental organization, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, challenging the legality of Holtec’s application. http://www.beyondnuclear.org/news/ The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act does not allow the federal government to take title to the waste until a permanent underground repository is operating. Yucca Mountain was supposed to be that repository, but it was stopped in 2010 due to underlying geologic issues. http://www.beyondnuclear.org/
Please note: On Tuesday, June 23rd, beginning at 3 pm MST, the NRC will hold a public online webinar about the draft environmental impact statement for the Proposed Holtec Consolidated Interim Storage Facility. This meeting is not a substitute for the five public meetings in New Mexico the NRC has committed to. To make public comments during the webinar, you must pre-register by Monday, June 22d by contacting Ms. Antoinette Walker Smith via email to: Antoinette.Walker-Smith@nrc.govNRC 6-23-20 Holtec DEIS Public Mtg
1. Saturday, June 20th and Sunday, June 21st – A digital justice gathering of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival: The Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington. Livestsream on Saturday, June 20th at 10 am and 6 pm EST (8 am and 4 pm MST), and again on Sunday, June 21st at 6 pm EST (4 pm EST). https://www.june2020.org/
2. Tuesday, June 23rd, beginning at 3 pm MST, the NRC will hold a public online webinar about the draft environmental impact statement for the Proposed Holtec Consolidated Interim Storage Facility. This meeting is not a substitute for the five public meetings in New Mexico the NRC has committed to. In order to make public comments at the webinar, you must pre-register by Monday, June 22d by contacting Ms. Antoinette Walker Smith via email to: Antoinette.Walker-Smith@nrc.govNRC 6-23-20 Holtec DEIS Public Mtg
In a May 29, 2020 Report, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board identifies four significant safety items that are unresolved at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). The items are related to the various accident scenarios the Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractor, the Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC, chose to analyze and mitigate. In some cases, the contractor asked that accident scenarios be removed from consideration, and DOE agreed. Nevertheless, the ever-watchful independent Board continues to request improved safety measures. https://www.dnfsb.gov/documents/letters/wipp-dsa-review
WIPP, located 2,150 feet below ground in salt formations, is a dump for plutonium-contaminated waste materials from manufacturing nuclear weapons. The waste contains long-lived radionuclides and other hazardous materials, so that every five years, DOE must certify to the Environmental Protection Agency that WIPP will not leak for 10,000 years. https://wipp.energy.gov/
The Board is concerned about repeat explosive events, such as the one that occurred on February 14, 2014 when one or more waste containers exploded underground. The waste originated at Los Alamos National Laboratory and was not properly characterized. http://www.sric.org/nuclear/wippleak2014.php The Board is concerned that WIPP still does not believe that the characterization process can fail, even though it has. The Board urges WIPP to reinstate the continuous air monitoring system that detects and responds to possible failures in the waste characterization process.
Another accident scenario involves a fire at the bottom of the shaft where a hoist carries waste from the surface to the underground. Currently, there is no restriction on transporting a 300-gallon fuel tank on the waste hoist. DOE could simply resolve the issue by prohibiting the transport of the fuel tank on the waste hoist. A smaller salt hoist can transport the fuel tank.
A related scenario is “overtraveling” of the waste hoist at the top of the shaft, creating damage to the ropes, which could result in its dropping to the bottom of the shaft. DOE says that installation of a controller and brake system would prevent the upward movement.
Roof falls in the underground have been of concern since the 1980s when WIPP was constructed. Once an area is opened up for waste disposal, slabs of salt can fall from the ceiling. DOE maintains the roofs with roof bolts that secure wire sheeting across the room ceilings. In rooms open for waste disposal, there is a possibility of a roof fall across the entire length of the room. The Board recommends safety controls, such as the ventilation system, to mitigate this danger.
5. Friday, July 31st comments due to EPA about two LANL discharge permits.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
EPA extended the public comment periods for 60 more days for the Individual Stormwater Permit and Industrial Wastewater (outfalls) Permit. A virtual public meeting on the Individual Stormwater Permit will be held in July. https://www.epa.gov/publicnotices/notices-search/location/New%20Mexico Sample public comments will be available before the deadline.
According to a new report by the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, the U.S. spent $35.4 billion on nuclear weapons in 2019. This figure includes $11.1 billion to the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy, and $24.3 billion to the Department of Defense. That amount equals spending $67,352 every minute of 2019 on nuclear weapons. In this time of the global COVID-19 pandemic, some question whether these taxpayers’ dollars could fund the needed masks, gloves, personal protective equipment and other equipment for medical professionals and patients, as well as for essential workers across the country. https://www.icanw.org/global_nuclear_weapons_spending_2020
The report, entitled, “Enough is Enough: 2019 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending,” carefully reviewed the nuclear weapons budgets of nine nuclear-armed countries. They are: China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. In 2019, the nine countries spent $72.9 billion on the weapons. Together, the countries possess more than 13,000 nuclear weapons and spent $138,699 every minute of 2019 on them. This $72.9 billion represents an increase of $7.1 billion from 2018.
But these billions of dollars spent in the U.S. and the other nine nuclear-armed countries are not the total expenditures. They pay for only the operating and development costs for nuclear warhead and nuclear-capable delivery systems. They do not include the cleanup, or remediation, of the environment contaminated by the operation, use, and development of nuclear weapons, nor do they include the health care and compensation needed by the unknowing and unwilling victims harmed by the production and use of nuclear weapons.
A 2011 Global Zero cost estimate stated that “unpaid/deferred environmental and health costs, missile [defenses] assigned to defend against nuclear weapons, nuclear threat reduction and incident management” would add 50 percent more dollars. GZ Nuclear Weapons Cost Global Study 2011 If included, in 2019, the U.S. would have spent approximately $53 billion, or $101,000 a minute.
Alicia Sanders-Zakre, the Policy and Research Coordinator for the ICAN and the primary author of the report, said, “The billions spent on nuclear weapons in 2019 didn’t save lives – it was a waste of resources needed to address real security challenges, including pandemics and climate change.”
The report concludes with a question we all need to answer: “Will citizens and leaders choose to continue to throw away $73 billion on nuclear weapons, or will they join the majority of the world’s countries in choosing to ban these weapons of mass destruction all together?”
Friday, July 31st comments due to EPA about two LANL discharge permits.EPA extended the public comment periods for 60 more days for the Individual Stormwater Permit and Industrial Wastewater (outfalls) Permit. A virtual public meeting on the Individual Stormwater Permit will be held in July. https://www.epa.gov/publicnotices/notices-search/location/New%20Mexico Sample public comments will be available before the deadline.
In a perverse strategy to bring Russia and China to the table to negotiate a tri-lateral agreement to limit nuclear arsenals, the White House is in on-going internal discussions about restarting nuclear weapons testing. The last U.S. underground nuclear explosive test was in 1992, at what was then called the Nevada Test Site. Between 1945 and 1992, radioactive and toxic fallout from its 1,000-plus atmospheric and underground tests fell across New Mexico and across other states. See “Under the Cloud: The Decades of Nuclear Testing,” by Richard L. Miller.
In 1996, the U.S. signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), an international agreement to ban all nuclear explosives tests. It provides for verification and on-site inspections. But the U.S., along with seven other countries, failed to ratify the Treaty. http://www.nuclearactive.org/news/031210.html
Although the Treaty has not entered into full force and for that reason the verification and inspections provisions are not in effect, only North Korea has tested.
A discussion to restart nuclear weapons testing inevitably triggers those who have been harmed from cumulative overexposure to radioactive and toxic fallout. They are called Downwinders, and there are thousands of New Mexicans who were exposed to the first nuclear weapons test on July 16, 1945, at the Trinity Site and to fallout from the Nevada Test Site.
In 1990, Congress created the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), a program to provide compensation to some of Downwinders in other states, but not the New Mexico Downwinders. LCN May 28, 2020 PLEASE REFERENCE PAGE 6 FOR “COVID-19 STRIKES NM ON THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MANHATTAN PROJECT,” SUBMITTED BY BERNICE J. GUTIERREZ AND PAUL LOPEZ PINO.
Tina Cordova, a co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, which has been working for 15 years to include the New Mexico Downwinders in RECA, said, “It’s been 75 years since the people of New Mexico were enlisted into the service of their country as participants in the first nuclear test anyplace in the world. The U.S. government has never recognized this or taken care of the devastating health consequences that developed as a result. Why would we ever think that testing today would yield a different result from the government? Who would want the testing to take place near where they live and raise their families? This just can’t happen again.” https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/
Back in 2005, a diverse group of non-governmental organizations appealed a draft air emissions permit for the construction of the proposed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The New Mexico Environment Department permit allowed the release of air emissions, including volatile organic compounds and hazardous and toxic air pollutants, during construction for both the Radiological Laboratory Utility and Office Building, or RLUOB, and the Super Walmart-sized CMRR Nuclear Facility.
On the last day of negotiations, the parties came to agreement. The settlement included enhanced public participation requirements that LANL would host public meetings every six months and establish a website where the powerpoint presentations from the semi-annual meetings would be posted, along with other CMRR information. For example, http://nuclearactive.org/news/030411.htmlCMRR Settlement Agreement 9-14-2005
At the present time there is escalating taxpayer funding for upgrading the RLUOB to support expanded manufacture of plutonium triggers, or pits, for nuclear weapons, and a draft air permit is being prepared for public review and comment. In response, seven NGOs are asking for the reinstatement of the public participation provisions and will work to ensure those provisions are included in the permit.
The historic 2005 agreement resulted in the Environment Department issuing a permit for only the RLUOB. Specific language was included that LANL would have to apply for a permit revision prior to initiating construction for the Nuclear Facility. The Nuclear Facility was deferred, then canceled during the Obama Administration, and in 2012, LANL stopped the public meetings.
But the NGOs argue that the CMRR Project continues as a replacement for the old 1960-era Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building and therefore the public participation requirements must resume. They cite Congressional budget documents. For instance, the Department of Energy (DOE) has requested $169 million for fiscal year 2021, which is a $983,000 increase over the enacted fiscal year 2020 budget. DOE plans an additional half billion dollars through 2025 for the project.
Further, four subprojects have been created as an “alternative approach” to the Nuclear Facility. They include equipment installation in both the RLUOB and the co-located Plutonium Facility; relocating existing equipment to make room for expanded pit production; and raising the amount of plutonium allowed in the RLUOB from 8.3 grams to over 400 grams. The NGOs note that they “have not seen a request to the New Mexico Environment Department, nor the Environmental Protection Agency for a modified air quality permit for the proposed increase of activity.” http://nuclearactive.org/doe-wants-50-fold-plutonium-increase-at-lanl-rad-lab/
The NGOs include CCNS, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Tewa Women United, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, Peace Action, the Loretto Community, and the Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group.
The Department of Energy (DOE) wants to bring a new kind of plutonium-contaminated, or transuranic, waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). DOE would dilute up to 48.2 metric tons of surplus plutonium and dispose it at WIPP. This waste was not included previously in the WIPP waste inventory, and there could be up to 160,000 55-gallon drums destined for WIPP.
For years, the DOE made many promises to the People of New Mexico, thus creating a “social contract.” Some provisions of the social contract were that WIPP would accept transuranic waste only from past nuclear weapons manufacturing. The maximum volume of such waste would not exceed 6.2 million cubic feet in the deep underground disposal facility. WIPP would operate for 25 years and then begin closure, which could take 10 years. Since WIPP opened in 1999, it should end waste disposal in 2024.
Nevertheless, DOE wants to expand the types of waste destined to WIPP, including the diluted surplus plutonium, and extend disposal operations until after 2080. Much of this diluted waste is part of an international agreement with Russia to downblend plutonium for use in nuclear power plants.
The National Academies of Science, in its new report released on April 30th, entitled Review of the Department of Energy’s Plans for Disposal of Surplus Plutonium in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, raised concerns about violating the social contract as well as other obstacles to bringing so much diluted surplus plutonium waste to WIPP. https://www.nap.edu/download/25593, pp. 8 – 9.
The report noted that U.S. Senator Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, a proponent of WIPP, objected to diluted surplus plutonium at WIPP. In 2002, the Senator wrote to then DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham: “I want to ensure that high level or weapons material wastes can never be simply diluted in order to comply with criteria for WIPP disposal …. In fact, dilution of weapons materials, simply in order to facilitate disposal, raises serious questions about our adherence to the same international controls on weapon-related materials that we expect other nations to follow.” https://www.nap.edu/download/25593, pp. 8, 95.
In the waning days of the Martinez Administration, the New Mexico Environment Department approved DOE’s request to change the way it calculated the volume of waste, thereby increasing WIPP’s capacity by 30 percent.
U.S. Senator Tom Udall recently expressed his concern about that waste recalculation. Senator Udall was previously the New Mexico Attorney General and he said the volume limits “were a major reason New Mexico agreed to this mission in the first place ….”
He continued, “I am encouraging the new administration [of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham] to take a hard look at this action, and hopeful that it will pause and reconsider this last-minute change that has major ramifications for our state.” https://www.nap.edu/download/25593, p 95.
The National Academies of Science made findings in their report. We quote Finding 5-4 to provide more information about the social contract between the People of New Mexico and DOE and the magnitude of the changes DOE proposes:
“FINDING 5-4: By virtually any measure, the proposal to dilute 48.2 MT of surplus plutonium and dispose at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) represents a substantial technical and “social contract” change for WIPP and the State of New Mexico.
“Several other converging factors occurring in the next 5 to 8 years could further exacerbate the ability of the regulatory institutions (EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], NMED [New Mexico Environment Department]), and the State of New Mexico to consider the significance of the dilute and dispose program in its entirety. These other factors include:
“• The recent new shaft and access drift being developed are expected to lead to a request for new disposal panels to accommodate the space lost in the abandoned south end, the additional volumes of waste that are enabled by the LWA [Land Withdrawal Act] volume of record accounting change, and the SPD-TRU [surplus plutonium disposition – transuranic] volumes (6 MT [metric tons] already in the WIPP-bound inventory). It is unclear where or what new room/panel configurations might be proposed, but they will introduce new asymmetries in the repository modeling and have to be reflected in the future PAs [performance assessments] of long-term performance, EPA’s compliance recertification reviews, NMED review and approval, etc.
“• The conceptual models and software code used in the performance assessment is expected to transition from BRAGFLO [brine and gas flow modeling code] to PFLOTRAN [petascale reactive multiphase flow and multicomponents transport code], allowing greater fidelity in the PA [performance assessment] modeling and allowing a three-dimensional analysis (see Box 5-1).
BOX 5-1 New Computer Models and the Expansion of WIPP’s Underground
The currently available physical capacity in WIPP is limited by the number of panels in its original design. A Government Accountability Office report (GAO, 2017) concluded that WIPP would reach current available physical capacity by 2026 and that at least two additional panels would be needed to accommodate future TRU waste. The existing panels in the WIPP underground are nearly full, and so new panels will have to be designed and mined to accommodate future wastes.
A new mathematical modeling tool, PFLOTRAN, is under development at Sandia National Laboratories that might be integrated into a suite of other modeling tools used to assess WIPP’s regulatory performance. PFLOTRAN is needed because it is expected that there will be an asymmetry introduced when new panels are designed and located. PFLOTRAN would replace an earlier code, BRAGFLO, which relies on a symmetrical geometry of the underground.
DOE-EM [Department of Energy – Environmental Management] told the committee that:
The proposed additional panels are still at the conceptual stage and PFLOTRAN is still in development. It is unknown precisely when PFLOTRAN will be used for any compliance calculations (with or without the 34 MT) for submittal to the EPA because future funding, resources, and priorities will impact the code’s availability. The analysis that is being performed regarding the 34 MT for the NEPA process utilizes the existing performance assessment software (e.g. BRAFLO [sic]) and disposal panels.a
The DOE-EM estimates that the model verification and validation for PFLOTRAN, which will be managed by Sandia and will follow an NQA-1 Quality Assurance program that is approved and audited by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is scheduled to be completed in May 2022. It is not expected that the EPA will perform any additional verification and validation of the code because they have not done so in the past. DOE-EM further stated that: “If PFLOTRAN is to be used in a compliance calculation for the March 2024 recertification, the data cutoff for that recertification would be December 31, 2022 and any inputs to that recertification would need to be completed prior to this date.” aaSee “August 28 Answers to PFLOTRAN Questions,” available by request through the National Academies’ Public Access Records Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It is unclear if this new code base will be relied on for the March 2024 or March 2029 recertification application.
“• As noted earlier, the DSP-TRU waste inventory has caused a renewed look at the potential for criticality, and the simple features, events, and processes (FEP) screening arguments used in the past are now augmented by a full criticality safety assessment, but this work has not yet received regulatory review. The initial criticality safety assessment, which has noted that abatement of criticality concerns may require boron carbide additives or load management, is in the context of the current room/panel design and evaluated for the 10,000-year regulatory compliance period.
“• The LWA volume of record change ostensibly translates to a greater total radionuclide inventory in WIPP (owing to the radionuclide quantity now being focused within an inner rather than outer container volume) which is intensified by the CCC/CCO [criticality control container; criticality control component/ criticality control overpack] configuration for diluted surplus plutonium (i.e., ~300 FGE [fissile gram equivalent] in 0.013 m3 instead of 0.21 m3).
“This confluence of events and changes, if approached in the traditional manner, will confound a transparent regulatory and public review of the full dilute and dispose program scope and deny the public and especially the State of New Mexico the opportunity to consider the significance of the dilute and dispose programs in their entirety.” [Emphasis added.] https://www.nap.edu/download/25593, pp. 95 – 96.
2. Sunday, May 24th at 3 pm – International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament organized by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. https://www.peacewomen.org/node/91898
3. Tuesday, June 2, 2020 – the comment period for the draft environmental impact statement about the proposed Savannah River Site Plutonium Bomb Plant has been extended from May 18. For more information, go to https://srswatch.org/
4. Thursday, July 16th at 5:30 am – 75th anniversary of the first atomic bomb test at Trinity test site. Event planning continues. To learn more, Google the Op-ed by two Trinity Downwinders – Bernice Gutierrez and Paul Pino, both born in Carrizozo, downwind of Trinity
5. Wednesday, July 22, 2020 – Extension of the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Holtec International’s Proposed Spent Nuclear Fuel Consolidated Storage Facility extended for an additional 60 days – from May 22, 2020. Stay tuned for more information. https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr2237/
Today, the Navajo Nation and Indigenous communities in general are facing unique challenges in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. One of those challenges is compromised immune systems and cancers due to exposure to aboveground atomic bomb tests in the United States and Marshall Islands and working in and living near the nuclear industry. Recent studies show that those with cancers are up to three times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those without. Uranium workers, including those from the Navajo Nation, have high rates of lung cancer. A key to reducing the spread of COVID-19 is providing access to medical care to those at highest risk.
This week, 124 non-governmental organizations submitted a letter to the leaders of the U.S. House and Senate seeking movement on bills that would provide assistance to nuclear frontline communities. organizational-sign-on-letter-impacted-communities-covid-19 They urged funding for those more vulnerable to COVID-19, such as those exposed to the July 16, 1945 Trinity test in New Mexico and tests conducted between 1946 and 1958 in the Marshall Islands, those working in and living near the nuclear industry, and the approximately 6,000 Veterans who worked to cleanup the Marshall Islands between 1977 and 1980.
The exposed populations are disproportionately Indigenous, people of color, veterans, low-income, and those living in rural areas. Many are now at greater risk from COVID-19 due to exposure to radiation and toxins in the environment; no running water; and lack of access to health care. These factors can result in poor health conditions and weakened immune systems.
The NGOs argued that those who have sacrificed for our country’s national security, in some cases unknowingly, should not have to carry the burden of this crisis.
Tina Cordova, co-founder of Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, said, “Many of us live in fear of the virus now not only because it is highly infectious and deadly to most but because we also know we are highly susceptible to getting the virus and dying from it due to our underlying health issues as a result of being exposed to radiation.” https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/
Saturday, May 9th – proposed bomb plant expansion comments due to the Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) about the draft Supplement Analysis for Los Alamos National Laboratory. Sample public comments are available at Nuclear Watch New Mexico. https://nukewatch.org/
Tuesday, June 2, 2020 – the comment period for the draft environmental impact statement about the proposed Savannah River Site Plutonium Bomb Plant has been extended from May 18. For more information, go to https://srswatch.org/
July 22, 2020 – Extension of the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Holtec International’s Proposed Spent Nuclear Fuel Consolidated Storage Facility extended for an additional 60 days – from May 22, 2020. Stay tuned for more information. https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr2237/
But, wait – there’s more: This week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released notice that it seeks public comment on the draft Environmental Report for a consolidated storage of spent nuclear fuel facility – similar to Holtec’s proposal – at Waste Control Specialists/Interim Storage Partners facility on the NM/Texas border – 35 miles east of the proposed Holtec consolidated interim storage facility. There is a 120-day comment period – ending sometime in September 2020. https://adamswebsearch2.nrc.gov/webSearch2/main.jsp?AccessionNumber=ML20122A220
It’s the 20th anniversary of the Cerro Grande fire. The Los Alamos Historical Society created an exhibit “Resilience and Regrowth.” https://www.losalamoshistory.org/cerrogrande While you are preparing your comments for the LANL Supplement Analysis, remember the trauma experienced when the fire burned for many days and came close to LANL’s Plutonium Facility (which is now proposed for expanded plutonium pit production) and Area G, which at the time of the fire, 40,000 containers (e.g., 55-gallon drums) of plutonium-contaminated waste were sitting in fabric tents on the mesa. Remember how LANL officials told us the forest would fully regenerate in seven years….
This is a special project, if you appreciate it, please contribute to help support future projects.
Plutonium levels cannot be measured on a Geiger Counter, Michael Ketterer, PhD
Denial, The Enormity of the issue, Elizabeth Panzer
Wherever the Yellow X is seen it will convey the message nuclear weapons are illegal.
Gorbachev deplores Trump move to scrap US-Russia nuclear treaty
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TO SUPPORT THE TULAROSA BASIN DOWNWINDERS CONSORTIUM ON RECA AMENDMENTS
Please contact the Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Minority Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and ask them to set the date for the RECA Oversight Hearing. Knowing the September hearing date will allow us to properly prepare for the hearing. The hearing will be televised on C-SPAN and on the Judiciary Committee’s website.