NMED Issues Administrative Orders to LANL and WIPP

Runs 5/23/14 through 5/30/14

(THEME UP AND UNDER)  This is the CCNS News Update, an overview of the latest nuclear safety issues, brought to you every week by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety.  Here is this week’s top headline:

•    NMED Issues Administrative Orders to LANL and WIPP

This week the New Mexico Environment Department issued administrative orders to the Department of Energy (DOE) at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) requiring plans about how the facilities will isolate, secure and possibly treat their nitrate salt bearing waste containers so that they do not pose a threat to human health or the environment.  The orders also state that the current handling, storage, treatment, transportation and disposal of the hazardous nitrate salt bearing waste containers at LANL and in the WIPP underground “may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment.”  http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/, see WIPP Update on the right side of the home page.

The orders mandate a schedule for implementation of the plans.  The orders also provide for the continuation of daily telephone calls with the Environment Department staff, as well as daily written reports.  All documents are to be posted in the electronic public reading rooms for each DOE facility within five working days.

WIPP has until Friday, May 30th to respond. LANL responded on Wednesday, May 21st.  http://www.nmenv.state.nm.us/, see WIPP Update on the right side of the home page.    At LANL, there are three categories of nitrate salt-bearing waste containers, which are the wastes that have been remediated, those that have not been remediated, and those wastes that have been cemented or those that are newly-generated.  The remediated wastes were treated with the kitty litter and repackaged into new drums.  The unremediated wastes are those that were not treated with the kitty litter.  LANL argues that the cemented and newly-generated wastes are not explosive or corrosive.

On May 1st, WIPP announced that possibly drums disposed of in the underground were unremediated nitrate salt-bearing waste.  On May 2nd, LANL did a review and began to take precautionary actions to prevent an explosion, such as the one that apparently occurred on Valentine’s Day in the WIPP underground.

LANL moved all the remediated containers into a dome structure at Area G, which has an active fire suppression system.  They began to take daily temperature measurements of each container and installed a continuous air monitoring system.  LANL overpacked 57 remediated containers into standard waste boxes, which will be moved by June 3rd into two other domes that are temperature controlled and equipped with HEPA filtration and fire suppression systems.  The unremediated containers have been overpacked into 85-gallon drums and also will be moved by June 3rd into the two domes.

The Environment Department is requiring WIPP to present a plan to expedite the closure of Panel 6, which contains 313 nitrate salt-bearing waste containers, and Panel 7, Room 7, which contains 55 of the same drums.

More than 100 of the suspect containers are stored at Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas.

This has been the CCNS News Update.  For more information and to make a tax-deductible contribution, please visit our website at http://www.nuclearactive.org.


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