NMED mulls move of oversight bureau
By Tris DeRoma
Monday, June 10, 2019 at 12:20 pm
The New Mexico Environment Department Department of Energy Oversight Bureau may move its oversight bureau from Los Alamos to Santa Fe.
News of the proposed move has some nuclear watchdog groups concerned.
According to NMED’s Public information officer, Maddy Hayden, the move is to better ensure compliance at Los Alamos National Laboratory and other federal facilities the NMED oversees.
The move was also about conducting oversight in better, more modern facilities, she said.
“This contemplated relocation to a more modern facility will include a new and innovative laboratory,” Hayden said.
Environmental, nuclear safety groups Nuclear Watch and Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety expressed concern over the move.
Concerned Citizens Spokeswoman Joni Arends said the oversight bureau’s physical presence in Los Alamos was important.
“It’s not the same to be able to drive down to the ‘Y’ intersection of NM. 4 and NM 502 and look at the flows to LA and Pueblo Canyon. It’s not the same as actually watching how much runoff is going off Smith’s parking lot into Los Alamos Canyon, it’s not the same as actually looking up at the Los Alamos ski hill and seeing how much snow is up there,” Arends said. “There’s something about being a presence in a place that allows a sensitivity for what’s going on.”
Hayden said the move would not diminish the oversight bureau’s pollution monitoring activities of LANL.
The New Mexico Environmental Department did not give a timeline for the move.
“The move will not result in decreased services and all program commitments will continue to be met,” Hayden said.
NMED is currently setting up a schedule of meeting where the public can give their comments on the move.
“NMED will continue to ensure engagement with local stakeholders and is initiating quarterly community meetings to provide opportunities for productive discussions on topics related to Los Alamos National Laboratory compliance,” Hayden said.
Arends and Jay Cauglan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, both said that the move would also mean more road time and less monitoring time for scientists at the oversight bureau who do the monitoring.
“If it’s close to two hours in roundtrip transportation, won’t that inevitably cut the amount of time that they can do actual oversight,” Cauglan said.