The Department of Energy (DOE) has raised the height of the underground waste disposal Panel 8 from 13 feet to 16 feet at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in violation of the Permit. DOE also did not inform the New Mexico Environment Department of that change, another violation of the Permit. DOE is now asking the Environment Department to ignore the Permit violations and approve the increased height and to adjust the potential volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that workers may be exposed to.
The VOCs of concern are: carbon tetrachloride, chlorobenzene, chloroform, 1,1-dichloroethylene, 1,2-Dichloroethane, methylene chloride, 1,1,2,2-Tetrachloroethane, toluene, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and trichloroethylene.
This is the fourth permit modification request with opportunity for public comment this year. If you have been keeping track, the requests have been for the construction and operation of a new Shaft No. 5 and associated drifts – https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/, scroll down to October 27, 2021 entry; operation of a new Salt Cell No. 5 and Salt Storage Pond No. 5 – https://www.env.nm.gov/opf/docketed-matters/, scroll down to GWQB 21-19 Groundwater Discharge Permit DP-831, Administrative Appeal to Cabinet Secretary; construction and use of new Panels 11 and 12 – https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/ , scroll down to August 3, 2021 entry; and now the Panel 8 VOC room-based limits – https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/ , scroll down to October 15, 2021 entry.
Last month, the Environment Department Secretary approved new Shaft No. 5, which decision Southwest Research and Information Center and Cynthia Weehler have appealed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals. http://nuclearactive.org/appeal-filed-against-nmed-approval-of-the-new-shaft-at-wipp/
Excavation of Panel 8 began in December 2013. At that time the ceiling was mined to 13 feet high, as the Permit requires.
Panel 8 excavation was halted when on February 14th, 2014 one or more drums of radioactive and hazardous waste exploded and contaminated the underground and the exhaust shaft. When Panel 8 excavation resumed in 2018, the room height was increased to 16 feet. But there was no notice of the change to the Environment Department, another violation of the Permit.
As part of its plans to expand WIPP and keep it open until 2080, DOE submitted a Class 2 permit modification request to the Environment Department to authorize changes in Panel 8 to account for the increased ceiling height and adjust the VOC limits. https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/ , scroll down to October 15, 2021 entry.
A Class 2 request may be approved by the Environment Department following a public comment period, which ends on December 20th, 2021. Because of the Permit violations and significant public concerns about WIPP expansion, CCNS and colleague non-governmental organizations believe the request should be denied or subject to a public hearing.
CCNS prepared a sample public comment letter you can use to show significant public concern about the DOE’s permit modification request. Rev. 1 Public comment WIPP Panel 8 11-23-21
- GIVING TUESDAY – Nov. 30th. You rely on CCNS to provide you with the latest nuclear safety issues and ways you can respond – links to key meetings, sample public comment letters, etc. On Giving Tuesday, please give as generously as you are able to keep us going to oppose expansion of WIPP and LANL. One way we are doing that is to push for the NM Environment Department to release its draft hazardous waste permits – already two years late – for WIPP and LANL for public review and comment. Thank you!
- Nov. 30th from 2 to 4 pm MT – EPA Individual Stormwater Permit for LANL required virtual public meeting. The meeting agenda includes: an update from Communities for Clean Water; updates on Individual Permit and copper site-specific water quality criteria; monitoring year 2021 sample results; control measure construction update; and questions and answers. Links to meeting available at: https://n3b-la.com/individual-permit-public-meeting-november-30-2021/ and https://ext.em-la.doe.gov/ips.
- Dec. 2nd from 5:30 to 7 pm MT – New Mexico Environmental Law Center, Environmental Justice Series, featuring Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA). Join the community conversation with YUCCA leaders who will present their work and the importance of youth leadership and involvement in the legislative session. Register here: https://nmelc-ejseries-yucca.eventbrite.com Here is also a link to the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/603594134428078?ref=newsfeed