NMED Releases WIPP Fact Sheet; draft Hazardous Waste Permit to be Released Tuesday, December 20th

On Thursday, December 8th, the New Mexico Environment Department released its fact sheet for the draft Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) Hazardous Waste Permit.  The draft fact sheet is a way to let New Mexicans and the Department of Energy (DOE) know about the Environment Department plans for the ten-year renewal of the permit.  https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/ , scroll down to WIPP News.   

WIPP is a deep geologic disposal site for plutonium-contaminated wastes generated from the production of pits, or the triggers, for nuclear weapons.  WIPP is located 26 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico.  It first opened in 1999 and is supposed to close in 2024.

The Environment Department summarized the new and more protective conditions it is considering.  These include prioritizing the disposal of waste generated prior to 1999, called legacy waste, from cleanup activities in New Mexico, such as at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), which DOE owns.  LANL is located on the Pajarito Plateau above the Rio Grande.

The Environment Department says it will tie closing WIPP to the end of the ten-year permit term unless DOE provides an accurate inventory of all remaining wastes to be emplaced at WIPP.  DOE wants to keep the site open until at least 2080.  Thus, there could be a 50-year gap between what the Environment Department wants and what DOE wants.

The Environment Department will require DOE to submit an annual report describing its steps to site another geologic repository in a state other than New Mexico.  Laws passed by the U.S. Congress have always considered WIPP to be the first, but not only, repository.  Yet DOE has not begun finding another disposal site for nuclear weapons waste to fulfill promises to New Mexico and distribute the waste disposal responsibilities across the country.

The Environment Department Cabinet Secretary, James Kenney, stated, “The New Mexico Environment Department is taking a strong stance to protect the health, environment and interests of New Mexicans.  The proposed permit changes clearly prioritize DOE’s cleanup of legacy contamination in our state while holding the [DOE] accountable.”  https://www.env.nm.gov/home-news-releases/

The draft hazardous waste permit, about 1,200 pages in length, will be released next Tuesday, December 20th for public review and comment.  https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/ , scroll down to WIPP News.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, encouraged you to get involved in this process.  Check out the CCNS website to explore public opposition to WIPP and to find fact sheets and sample public comments you can use and modify to submit your own comments.

  1. Friday, December 16th from 8 am to 9 am – STATE OF NEW MEXICO RADIOACTIVE WASTE CONSULTATION TASK FORCE NOTICE OF PUBLIC MEETING. This will be a virtual webex meeting.  Registration, public notice and agenda may be found at:  https://www.emnrd.nm.gov/wipp-transportation-safety-program/the-radioactive-waste-consultation-task-force/



  1. Friday, December 16th from noon to 1 pm – Join the weekly peaceful protest for nuclear disarmament on the corners of Alameda and Guadalupe in downtown Santa Fe with Veterans for Peace, CCNS, Nuclear Watch NM, Loretto Community, Pax Christi and others.



  1. Tuesday, December 20thPosting of the draft WIPP hazardous waste renewal permit and a revised fact sheet at https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/wipp/ , under “WIPP News.” Get involved!  For more information:  http://nuclearactive.org/ and  https://stopforeverwipp.org/home

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