NMED Contemplates Moving Its LANL Oversight Bureau to Santa Fe

Despite being exclusively funded by a Department of Energy (DOE) grant, the New Mexico Environment Department is exploring whether to move the Oversight Bureau at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) from Los Alamos to Santa Fe.  A community meeting will held the week of June 24th to discuss the issues at a location to be determined.  Your voice to support the Oversight Bureau remaining in Los Alamos is needed now.

For over 30 years, the Oversight Bureau has served as the eyes and ears of the Environment Department in Los Alamos.  Their purview of day-to-day operations and emergencies, such as the 1996 Dome fire, the 2000 Cerro Grande  http://www.nuclearactive.org/docs/CerroGrandeindex.html, and the 2011 Las Conchas fires, has been essential for communities downwind and downstream of LANL.  During the fires, the Oversight Bureau staffers remained on-site and monitored air emissions.  CCNS, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the public rely on the Oversight Bureau’s expertise, institutional knowledge of LANL operations, and their environmental sampling data and analyses.

The Environment Department says it is conducting a proper assessment to determine where the Oversight Bureau should be located.  Nevertheless, DOE provides about $1.8 million annually to the LANL Oversight Bureau under what was called an agreement in principle between the two agencies.  It covered oversight of both the environmental releases from nuclear weapons work and cleanup at LANL.  It is now called a memorandum of understanding and is restricted to cleanup.

Scott Kovac, of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said, “If the Environment Department is concerned about funding the Oversight Bureau, it is time for them to initiate negotiations with DOE to revise, update, and possibly expand the memorandum of understanding and funding for it.”  https://nukewatch.org/

The attempt to move the Oversight Bureau to Santa Fe is reminiscent of the recent DOE effort to revise DOE Order 140.1 to restrict the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board access to LANL facilities, personnel, and information.  http://nuclearactive.org/ana-opposes-new-doe-order/, http://nuclearactive.org/doe-must-hold-hearings-in-new-mexico-about-order-140-1/, and http://nuclearactive.org/santa-fe-county-commissioners-call-for-suspension-of-doe-order-140-1/.  At the same time, recent reports about the use of carbon steel valves in pipelines carrying corrosive radioactive liquid waste again demonstrates that LANL needs more oversight, not less.  https://www.dnfsb.gov/sites/default/files/document/18101/Los%20Alamos%20Week%20Ending%20May%203%202019.pdf, and https://nukewatch.org/2019/05/31/faulty-radioactive-liquid-waste-valves-raise-crucial-plutonium-pit-production-and-safety-board-issues/

Joni Arends, of CCNS, urged people to get involved to keep the Oversight Bureau in Los Alamos.  She said, “The new Environment Department Secretary, James Kenney, needs to understand the importance of the Oversight Bureau staying in Los Alamos for those living downwind and downstream of LANL.  Please contact Secretary Kenney and tell him your story about what the Oversight Bureau means to you.  Explain why it needs to remain in Los Alamos.  His phone number is 505 827-2855 and his email is James.Kenney@state.nm.us.  Please copy your correspondence to your congressperson and your local media.  Thank you.”

Here’s a sample public comment letter that you can use to submit your concerns to NM Environment Department Secretary James Kenney.  Feel free to use the paragraphs that resonant with your concerns – edit them and add your own concerns. f OB sample public comment letter 6-6-19


The Center for Constitutional Rights just published a new Freedom of Information Act FOIA Basics for Activists, an 18-page how to manual.  https://ccrjustice.org/sites/default/files/attach/2019/05/FOIA-Basics-for-Activists-May-2019.pdf  Please share it widely.

Did You Know about these upcoming events?

1.  Wednesday, June 19, from 6 to 7:30 pm at the Center for Progress and Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe – The Santa Fe County Democratic Party is sponsoring a forum entitled, “Nuclear Wasteland – New Mexico?” which will address the challenged expansion of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and the proposed Holtec International high-level radioactive waste consolidated interim storage facility located 16 miles north of WIPP.  Speakers include:  Don Hancock, Southwest Research and Information Center; State Representative Christine Chandler (District 43); James Kenney, New Mexico Environment Department Secretary; and Sally Rodgers, founder of Conservation Voters New Mexico.   http://santafedemocrats.org/events/

2.  Wednesday – Thursday, July 10 – 11, beginning at 9 am, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a hearing about the Waste Control Specialists (Interim Storage Partners) license application for a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for high-level radioactive waste at the Midland County Courthouse, 500 North Loraine Street, Midland, Texas.  https://www.nrc.gov/pmns/mtg  It is anticipated that this hearing will be similar to the ASLB hearing in Albuquerque in January about the Holtec International license application.


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  • Tom Gorman

    I strongly oppose moving this office to Santa Fe.

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