LANL Short Cut to Build New Facility Without Public Input

Improper regulation of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for a proposed new radioactive liquid waste treatment facility for contaminated plutonium waters from nuclear weapons operations leaves the public out of the process.  Because the new facility treats, stores and disposes of hazardous waste, it must be regulated by the New Mexico Environment Department.  To do so, LANL would have to submit a permit modification request to the Environment Department, which requires enhanced regulation.  It would also allow for public review and comment, as well as the opportunity to request a public hearing.  LANL has resisted hazardous waste regulation at every turn.           

The current facility has a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)., p. 7 of Part I.  In order to be covered by an EPA discharge permit, a discharge of a pollutant into the environment must occur.  Since November 2010, no discharge has flowed through Outfall 051 – the outfall hooked up to the current facility.

CCNS challenged the outfall remaining on the permit through a number of appeals.  On March 19, 2019, our lawyers, Jon Block of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, and Lindsay A. Lovejoy, argued for the removal before the Court of Appeals in the Tenth Circuit.  We are awaiting a decision.

The proposed $145 million facility would be located between the plutonium facility and the current radioactive liquid waste treatment facility and would process about 7,500 gallons of wastewater annually.  Like the current facility, it would be a “zero discharge” facility, which means that the treated wastewaters would be evaporated into the air.  Even so, LANL would most likely hook up the new facility to Outfall 051 in order to avoid hazardous waste regulation.

Like the current facility, the sludge would be shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

On April 15, 2019, LANL released a request for architect and engineering services for the proposed 3,750 square foot project.  Some of the requested services would require reviewing the design work done by the previous contractor, the Los Alamos National Security, LLC.

Nevertheless, the new report by the Department of Energy, Office of Enterprise Assessments, found many long-term, unresolved engineering problems.  The “significant weaknesses” in managing resolution of the problems “can lead to the degradation of nuclear safety.”  The report cited “institutional behaviors” that have allowed unresolved issues to persist.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, stated, “The Environment Department must protect human health and the environment through hazardous waste regulation of the old and new facilities.  The revelations in the new DOE Assessment highlight our concerns for hazardous waste regulation of LANL operations.”


Did you know that as a special project, CCNS posted individual clips from the There is No Refuge from Nuclear War or Nuclear Waste:  Rocky Flats in Context (September 15, 2018 in Boulder, Colorado) on our website, YouTube, and Facebook?  Clips include:

1.    Elizabeth Panzer, a Mother and Concerned Citizen living near Rocky Flats, talks about denial of the enormity of the issues;

2.    Michael Ketterer, PhD, wants to sample areas contaminated with plutonium; and the need for perpetual monitoring; and

3.    Rick Wayman, of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, explains how he got involved and suggestions for how to get youth involved.  He also speaks about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Please support our special projects!  We want to do more to keep you informed!

CCNS believes that these clips are important to share with others to explain what happened at Rocky Flats and how DOE is using the same playbook for LANL cleanup.


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