DOE’s Latest Plan for Expanding WIPP – Three New Drifts and Two New Waste Disposal Panels
Were you wondering about the next step in the Department of Energy’s piecemeal approach to expanding the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)? You don’t have to wait any longer. Last week DOE held a virtual public meeting on a new permit modification request to the New Mexico Environment Department. https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/ , scroll down to August 3, 2021 post. That request includes mining three new access drifts to the west of the existing underground disposal site, starting next month. In total, DOE plans five new west access drifts, approximately 2,400 feet long. From the new drifts, two new waste disposal panels would be constructed directly to the south of the proposed Shaft 5.
When asked what regulatory agency gave DOE permission to begin mining before the public comment period ends on October 4th, it responded that it gave itself permission. So here we go again, DOE trying to move forward with construction before the required public comment period ends. However, the New Mexico Environment Department can prevent the mining now, until there is a final decision on the permit modification, which could take at least 18 months.
You may be asking yourself, “What is WIPP?” And “Why should I care?” WIPP is the country’s only underground disposal site for waste generated from the production of nuclear weapons. The waste is contaminated with radioactive plutonium that must be isolated from the environment. WIPP is located in a salt formation 2,150 feet below ground surface about 26 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico. https://wipp.energy.gov/
WIPP was supposed to stop receiving waste in 2024 after 25 years of operation.
Although WIPP is not supposed to be the only disposal site, DOE has made no attempts to find another site, rather it is spending tax dollars to double the disposal space and keep WIPP open forever. https://stopforeverwipp.org/ , check out Current News.
DOE says the proposed panels are “replacement” panels 11 and 12, claiming they are needed because of space lost, including from the radiological release on February 14th, 2014. Twenty-two workers were exposed and 8,000 feet of the underground were contaminated. https://nuclearactive.org/doe-inspector-general-releases-report-about-failure-of-waste-procedures-resulting-in-indefinite-wipp-shut-down/
Some observe that the proposed panels should be named the “mismanagement” panels because of the large amount of space that was left unfilled or contaminated. Each new panel would have seven rooms, each 300 feet in length, 33 feet wide and 14 feet high.
A local community group of which CCNS is a member, the Stop Forever WIPP Coalition, has prepared a sample public comment letter you can find at https://stopforeverwipp.org/ or download right here: Comment Ltr to NMED re WIPP Permit Renewal-Oppose Panels 11 & 12 Comments are due by 5 pm Mountain Daylight Time on Monday, October 4th.
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- Thank you to everyone who has contributed to CCNS!!! We actively participated in the groundwater discharge permit public hearing Tuesday and Wednesday. We’ll start working on the post-hearing filings soon to support an Information Repository that DOE will manage on the WIPP website.
In the meantime, DOE is leapfrogging a new permit modification to construct and use three new drifts and two new panels in the ”west wing.” DOE plans to start mining next month. See today’s Update. CCNS would appreciate your financial support right now as we continue to oppose FOREVER WIPP. Your tax-deductible donation is greatly appreciated! Please go to http://nuclearactive.org/ to make your greatly needed contribution or mail it to: CCNS, P. O. Box 31147, Santa Fe, NM 87594-1147. Thank you!
- Fri., Sept. 10 by 5 pm MDT – If you didn’t get your comments in about the groundwater discharge permit for WIPP (DP-831), there’s still a little bit of time. The Hearing Officer is keeping the record open until 5 pm on Friday, Sept. 10th at 5 pm MDT. Every comment counts! f DP-831 (WIPP GWDP) Comment Ltr 8-30-21
- Mon., Sept. 20 at 9 am – In-person [subject to change] NM Interim Legislative Radioactive & Hazardous Materials Committee meeting at Student Services & Technology Center 200, UNM-Gallup, 705 Gurley Avenue, Gallup, NM. The first panel discussion will be about The Legacy of Uranium Mining, Community Impacts, Cleanup and Challenges. The second panel discussion will be about Compensation for Downwinders and Uranium Mine Workers. A 30-minute public comment period will begin at approximately 12:15 pm. There will be a third panel after lunch updating the Committee on the Gold King Mine Spill and Restoration Project Program. The final session will be a report from the State Emergency Response Commission. For more information: https://nmlegis.gov/Committee/Interim_Committee?CommitteeCode=RHMC
- Mon., October 4th: Public comments are due to NM Environment Department about the proposed construction and use of hazardous waste disposal Units 11 and 12. This is DOE’s plan to “replace” the panels that were contaminated due to years of mismanagement (also known as “DOE’s mismanagement panels”). For more information see https://nuclearactive.org/doe-continues-its-push-for-wipp-expansion/ and https://wipp.energy.gov/wipp_news_20210810.asp CCNS will prepare talking points and sample public comments you can use. Stay tuned!
Tags: 2014 release, CCNS, Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping, Department of Energy, DOE, February 14, mismanagement panels, New Mexico Environment Department, NMED, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Panels 11 and 12, Shaft 5, Southwest Alliance for a Safe Future, Southwest Research and Information Center, STOP FOREVER WIPP, three new access drifts, two new panels, Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, What is WIPP?, Why should I care?, WIPP
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