Deadline Nears for Public Comments to Stop WIPP Expansion

Tuesday, August 11th is the deadline for comments to the New Mexico Environment Department to oppose the new shaft to expand the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  Sample public comments are available here WIPPShaftPublicCommentLetter_072720

The New Mexico Environment Department allowed the Department of Energy (DOE) to begin digging the new shaft in April, seven weeks before releasing a draft permit for the required public comment and hearing process.  The new shaft would allow new underground rooms that could more than double the disposal area, because the existing permitted panels will be filled in a few years.

The shaft and new rooms would provide capacity for more waste than legally allowed and for new types of waste, including high-level radioactive waste from Hanford, Washington and other sites; commercial waste from West Valley, New York; weapons grade plutonium from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina; and 50 years of waste from building new nuclear weapons.

The WIPP expansion would allow the facility to continue disposal operations indefinitely, essential forever, even though the existing permit states that waste disposal ends in 2024.  The DOE wants to eliminate any date to end WIPP operations because it has no plans to have any other disposal site.  As in its name, WIPP was supposed to be a pilot plant, the first of multiple geologic repositories.  But there is no other disposal site.

The Environment Department ignored the comments of almost 300 people and organizations that opposed the new shaft last year and stated that the request should be denied.  But the Environment Department must consider and respond to public comments it receives.  At the public hearing, witnesses must testify under oath and be cross-examined about the new shaft and WIPP expansion.

The decision to allow construction of the shaft has been appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court by Southwest Research and Information Center.  The litigation claims that the Temporary Authorization to allow construction is prohibited by regulations and prejudices the public comment process.  In fact, the draft permit makes no substantive changes to the provisions that DOE proposed in 2017 and again last year.

“This disregard for the law and regulations that govern WIPP translates to a gag order on the People of New Mexico,” said Laura Watchempino of the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment.  “Our homelands and home state have become a national sacrifice area again, where regulations and laws that protect us are flouted.  Allowing shaft construction to begin without public input, shows that DOE and the New Mexico Environment Department think they can continue these unlawful practices.”

We’ve sent the Weekly Update out early to keep you informed about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75th commemoration events and encourage you to submit your comments to oppose WIPP expansion.

CCNS brought three citizen lawsuits. That’s why we are writing this today. You have supported our work in the past. And we feel confident that when you read about what we’re up against now, you’ll want to do what you can to see our lawsuits through to success.

An events list for Trinity, Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75th Commemoration Events, print, audio and virtual media, and opportunities to provide public comments about a variety of nuclear issues is available here.  CCNS 75th Commemoration Events & Upcoming Deadlines 8-5-20

1. Thursday, August 6th at 6 pm MDT – Nuclear Issues Study Group – “We Are Not A Wasteland: Empowering Grassroots Resistance,” Episode 5:  No More Hiroshimas!  No More Churchrocks!  Making Links to Break the Chain.


2.  Thursday, August 6th at 6 pm MDT – Pace e Bene 75th Anniversary Hiroshima Day One-Hour Online Commemoration, hosted by the New Mexico 75th Commemoration of Hiroshima/Nagasaki Committee and Pace e Bene. The webinar is free, but registration required.


3. Tuesday, August 11th at 5 pm.  Deadline to submit comments to the NM Environment Department about the DOE’s plans for FOREVER WIPP!  and


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