Current Activities

New Mexico Files Suit to Halt Two Proposed High-Level Nuclear Waste Storage Facilities

(AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

On Monday, Attorney General Hector Balderas took a necessary step to protect the People, environment, and economy of New Mexico by filing a lawsuit against the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission to stop its efforts to license two proposed facilities for high-risk, high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.  Balderas alleges the proposals present a clear and present danger to New Mexico because of the risky and long-term burdens they impose on the State.  The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico.  Attorney_General_Balderas_Announces_Lawsuit_to_Halt_Holtec_Nuclear_Storage_Facility

Holtec International is proposing to build and operate a consolidated storage facility, located halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs, New Mexico, in the oil patch.  Holtec is seeking a license to store 8,680 metric tons of uranium vertically in 500 lead-lined canisters for 40 years, with future expansion to 10,000 canisters containing 100,000 metric tons of uranium for 120 years or longer.

Also, Interim Storage Partners is proposing to expand Waste Control Specialists low-level waste facility in Texas, located five miles east of Eunice, New Mexico.  Its application calls for storage of 40,000 metric tons of uranium for at least 40 years.

The license applications have a fatal flaw that NRC has ignored, while it continues to process the applications.  Challenges from local community members have been rejected, as well as the expert comments from New Mexico state agencies.  http://nuclearactive.org/officials-and-ngos-express-deep-concerns-about-holtec/ and http://nuclearactive.org/public-comments-needed-by-september-22nd-about-holtec-proposal/

The fatal flaw, you ask?  The applications of the limited liability corporations assume that the Department of Energy (DOE) will take title to the waste and pay the costs.  But the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act prohibits DOE from taking title until a permanent federal repository is operating.  Yucca Mountain, the only proposed disposal facility, has been canceled for more than a decade.  Even so, the applications state that a permanent repository will be built by 2048.

This means that unacceptable burdens would fall on New Mexico should NRC illegally grant one or both licenses.  New Mexico would be responsible for emergency preparedness and response for transportation-related accidents along road and rail transportation routes that have yet to be disclosed.  Further, New Mexico would be responsible for the repair and maintenance for many years.  If the NRC grants one or more of the licenses, the ongoing daily threat from the transportation of the waste and operations at the facility(ies) would create an imminent and substantial endangerment to the diverse communities of New Mexico.

Attorney General Balderas explains why he took the legal action.  “I want to mitigate dangers to our environment and to other energy sectors.  It is fundamentally unfair for our residents to bear the risks of open ended uncertainty.”

In the lawsuit, New Mexico asks the Court for a preliminary injunction to suspend the licensing processes, as well as to declare the case in its favor.  https://www.nmag.gov/


1. Every Friday and Saturday from noon to 1 pm – Protest LANL signing a 10-year lease (for the former Descartes building) to establish itself in Santa Fe at the corner of Guadalupe and W. Alameda. JOIN US!  We’ll have banners.  Please bring a sign.

 

2. On Wednesday, March 31, 2021, the Santa Fe City Council voted 5 – 3, with Councilor Mike Garcia, the Council’s representative on the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC), abstaining, to not approve the amended Joint Powers Agreement. https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/santa-fe-city-council-rejects-lanl-coalition-agreement/article_570374dc-9234-11eb-9551-5be77d317e1f.html#tncms-source=login    Councilor Renee Villarreal will introduce a resolution for the City to withdraw its membership in the RCLC.  Stay tuned!  Raise your voice!

 

3. On Monday, March 29, 2021, CCNS, Honor Our Pueblo Existence (H.O.P.E.), and the New Mexico Acequia Association submitted supplementary comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about its draft industrial wastewater discharge permit for 11 outfalls at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Our comments were filed in response to the Department of Energy and Triad’s request to EPA to reopen the comment period and its February 25, 2021 supplementary filings about the draft permit, challenge to the New Mexico Environment Department’s §401 certification of the draft permit, and planned changes to the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility for Outfall 051.  https://www.epa.gov/nm/los-alamos-national-laboratory-lanl-limited-reopening-public-comment-period-npdes-permit-no  To review the filings, scroll down to the bottom of the page:  https://www.epa.gov/nm/los-alamos-national-laboratory-lanl-limited-reopening-public-comment-period-npdes-permit-no-0

 

The New Shaft Permit Modification

The New Shaft Permit Modification
Part 2
WIPP’s Temporary Authorization

 

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) must approve or deny the Department of Energy’s (DOE) New Shaft Permit Modification Request (PMR), based on regulations, evidence, and public comment. However, even before issuing the Draft Permit for public comment, NMED allowed DOE to start shaft construction under a Temporary Authorization (TA). The 180-day TA expired on October 24, 2020, and NMED denied the request to re-issue the TA. Under the TA, the new shaft was sunk to 116 feet deep – of a final proposed depth of 2,275 feet. The total estimated construction time is 37 months at an estimated cost of $197 million.

Looking down the New Shaft during the Temporary Authorization period.
An excavator and a personnel hoist are ready to be lifted out of the utility shaft
prior to another round of blasting. (image DOE)

 

In approving the TA, NMED stated: “This authorization is temporary and does not constitute a final agency action on the pending Class 3 PMR, nor does it prejudice or presuppose the outcome of the final action on the PMR. If NMED ultimately denies the PMR, the Permittees must reverse all construction activities associated with this Request at their expense and within the timeframes specified by the Department.”

 

Read on to learn more
or skip to the end
to see how you can help stop the WIPP expansion

 

Objecting to the TA

Various groups and individuals objected to the TA because it appeared to approve the new shaft before the required public comments and public hearing on the draft permit. It was also an “end run” around public involvement in deciding whether or not the New Shaft is even needed.

In 2019, 97 percent of the 295 organizations and individuals commenting on the New Shaft modification request opposed that request and also objected to the WIPP expansion.

On June 12, 2020, NMED issued the draft permit for 60 days of public comment. Again, 97 percent of the 360 organizations and individuals that commented opposed the New Shaft draft permit, including objecting to the WIPP expansion.

 

What isn’t said

The regulations require that the Permit Modification Request must state the need for the New Shaft and that the proposed change protects public health and the environment. The PMR and draft permit state that the need is for underground ventilation and do not mention that the New Shaft is an essential part of the WIPP expansion. (The shaft’s diameter is wide enough for a new waste hoist.) Nor do they describe the health and environmental impacts of “Forever WIPP.” (image DOE)

 

The public hearing

During the public hearing in May, Technical Testimony will be presented and witnesses cross-examined. The public can comment as well, both during the hearing itself and during the pre-hearing period we are in now. Public comment includes previous written comments, written comments submitted before the hearing begins, and written and oral comments made during the public hearing itself. All comments from the public must be considered along with technical testimony from expert witnesses when the the NMED Secretary makes his decision on the permit.

The hearing begins on Monday, May 17 at noon and will continue for a few days. People can participate on Zoom or by phone. There will be simultaneous English/Spanish interpretation.

More information about how to comment will be provided in the next Update. (image DOE)

 

How You Can Help Stop the New Shaft and the WIPP Expansion

People can help stop this New Utility Shaft by reading NMED’s Public Notice and Fact Sheet (both in English & Spanish), reading our analysis of these documents, and by participating in the permit modification hearing. Read our future newsletters to see our analysis, read a short timeline & history of WIPP, and to find out more on how you can participate and influence the hearing process.

 

Please share this newsletter with

family, friends and colleagues

and

Please donate to the Stop FOREVER WIPP coalition

through our GoFundMe Page.

 

For More Information
Stop Forever WIPP
Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC)
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS)
Southwest Alliance
 

It’s Time to Email Public Comments to EPA about LANL Industrial Wastewater Discharge Permit

Monday, March 29th, is the deadline for public comment on an important five-year permit that regulates wastewater discharges from 11 Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) industrial facilities into the canyons that flow to the Rio Grande.  These facilities include some that have not discharged any industrial “wastewater” for years.  The question before the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is whether to renew the Clean Water Act permit.

In mid-October, CCNS, Honor Our Pueblo Existence, and the New Mexico Acequia Association submitted a 33-page brief, opposing the re-issuance of permits for six of those facilities that have not discharged and are not expected to discharge, according to statements in LANL’s permit application and in EPA’s fact sheet.  https://www.epa.gov/nm/los-alamos-national-laboratory-lanl-limited-reopening-public-comment-period-npdes-permit-no and to read the brief and the 54 exhibits,  https://www.epa.gov/nm/los-alamos-national-laboratory-lanl-limited-reopening-public-comment-period-npdes-permit-no-0

The Clean Water Act requires a “discharge of [a] pollutant” for EPA to issue a permit.  But no discharges are anticipated at several facilities.  Mechanical evaporators were installed at two of the facilities, the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility and the High Explosive Wastewater Treatment Facility, more than a decade ago.  The evaporators have been used as the sole disposal system, but the Clean Water Act does not regulate them.

LANL wants to keep the Clean Water Act permit because it provides an exemption from regulation by the stricter and more protective federal and state hazardous waste laws and regulations (federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act).

The hazardous waste laws cover more than just a discharge.  For example, the hazardous waste laws cover the systems of piping and tanks that store and treat the liquid waste and require a registered professional engineer to determine its structural integrity, as well as conduct assessments as to the strength of the welds and systems to prevent corrosion, among other assessments.

And, as Los Alamos County and LANL facilities are located in a seismic zone, the regulations also require these facilities to meet seismic safety requirements.

The seismic risks are significant.  The Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility is located across the street from the existing Plutonium Facility and the location of the proposed, but canceled, super Wal-Mart sized Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Nuclear Facility. Lack of compliance with the seismic requirements was among the reasons that the Nuclear Facility was canceled.  http://nuclearactive.org/public-comments-needed-for-epa-about-lanl-industrial-wastewater-discharge-permit/

In addition, hazardous waste laws require a public permitting process for approval of new construction.  EPA admits in its fact sheet that LANL has “a newly constructed main low-level [liquid] waste treatment facility, [] with an estimated operational start date in 2023.”  There was no public process for that new facility, because LANL has an exemption for it based on the Clean Water Act permit.  Under the hazardous waste laws, a full public process, including a public hearing, was required.  But because of the exemption, LANL only had to submit their plans and specifications to EPA.

Comments are due to EPA on Monday, March 29th.  f EPA LANL CWA Permit Comment letter 3-25-21


Did You Know?  We are Podcasting!

1. Every Friday and Saturday from noon to 1 pm – Protest LANL signing a 10-year lease (for the former Descartes building) to establish itself in Santa Fe at the corner of Guadalupe and W. Alameda. JOIN US!  We’ll have banners.  Please bring a sign.

 

 

2. Monday, March 29thEPA granted a four-week extension of time to provide comments about LANL industrial wastewater discharge permit.  CCNS is preparing comments in response to Triad National Security, LLC’s comments submitted on March 1, 2021.  Stay tuned for sample public comments you can use, as we get closer to the deadline.  https://www.epa.gov/nm/los-alamos-national-laboratory-lanl-limited-reopening-public-comment-period-npdes-permit-no

 

 

3. Wednesday, March 31st beginning at 4 pm – Santa Fe City Council will consider whether to withdraw from the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities at a virtual meeting. Check here for the agenda:  https://santafe.primegov.com/public/portal   Contact information for your elected officials at  https://www.santafenm.gov/elected_officials  

For more information, check out last week’s Update:  Santa Fe City Council Committee Considers Leaving the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities at http://nuclearactive.org/santa-fe-city-council-committee-considers-leaving-the-regional-coalition-of-lanl-communities/

Nuclear Watch New Mexico  – under “New & Updated.”  Scroll down for the Local Governments Should Leave the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities fact sheet.  https://nukewatch.org/

Los Alamos Study Group March 2, 2021 post:  “Please contact the Santa Fe City Council urging the City to leave the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.”  https://lasg.org/letters/2021/nm_02Mar2021.html     

 

This #WorldWaterDay, it’s time Congress starts treating water as a human right.

 

Let’s pass the WATER Act so we can fix our aging water infrastructure & help ensure #WaterForAll! http://fwwat.ch/3kfTtzS

We want to share some upcoming events this week in honor of World Water Day:

 

  • Today, Monday 3/22 at 9:30 am PT/ 12:20 pm ET, the Water Equity and Climate Resilience Caucus is holding a National Call for Water, featuring Janene Yazzie, Catherine Flowers, Monica Lewis-Patrick and Rep. Debbie Dingell.
  • Today, Monday 3/22 at 1 pm PT/ 4 pm ET, We the People of Detroit is hosting “Democratizing Water Affordability: A discussion on structural racism and environmental segregation across America.” Featuring Monica Lewis-Patrick, Peter Hammer, Jason Stanley, Coty Montag, Nadia Gaber and more!
  • Wednesday, 3/24 at 8:30 am PT / 11:30am ET, we are co-hosting a webinar called “Water Financialization 101: Water Futures, Water Markets and Reclaiming the Water Commons.” Featuring Maude Barlow, Marcela López, Anuradha Mittal, Steve Suppan, Emiliano Terán Mantovani, and Shiney Varghese.
  • Friday, 3/26 all day: We’re having a National Call-In Day for the Water Act, so mark your calendars.

 

On Friday, we are asking people to call their Congressional Representative and Senators to encourage them to cosponsor the WATER Act and push for it to be included in the upcoming infrastructure package. We have set up phone numbers that will track the number of calls we generate and that will have a quick recording at the beginning with a sample message to deliver:

 

  • House switchboard: 202-609-9041
  • Senate switchboard: 202-609-9043

 

Here is a draft message:

 

Hi my name is ____ and I live at ______. I am calling to urge Rep ____ to cosponsor the WATER Act (HR 1352) and push for its water justice provisions to be included in the infrastructure package. The federal disinvestment in our water systems has caused skyrocketing water rates, crumbling infrastructure, widespread pollution, mass water shutoffs, and dangerous privatization schemes – Congress must act now to end our water crisis.

(to find YOUR representative just click these links :  https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representativehttps://www.senate.gov/?Class=1 )

Thank you!

 

Stop FOREVER WIPP! Newsletter

The New Shaft Permit Modification
Public Hearing Begins on

Monday, May 17, 2021 

 

The Department of Energy (DOE) wants to expand WIPP beyond the limits set in federal law, state agreements, the WIPP Permit, and DOE’s decades-old social contract with New Mexicans. But instead of presenting their entire plan to the public for review, DOE is trying to have different parts of the plan approved piecemeal, to avoid the required public process to examine the entire plan, and before the public and state officials decide if DOE’s expansion plan is even needed.

The latest “piece” is the current permit modification to add a new, fifth shaft to the WIPP underground. This permit modification is scheduled for public hearing, starting on May 17th. DOE claims the New Shaft and accompanying corridors (drifts) are needed for ventilation during current operations, but in fact, they are part of the build-out that will later include waste panels and waste rooms that would more than double the size of the underground disposal area.

 

Read on for more details
or skip to the end
to see how you can help stop the WIPP expansion

 

What is the Real Purpose of the New Shaft?

It is true that the drum explosion and radioactive release from WIPP in 2014 contaminated much of the underground and the exhaust shaft so that underground workers have been working with less than half of the air flow they had before the accident. However, the claim that the New Shaft is needed for ventilation of the existing underground space is bogus.

The existing four shafts provided all needed air for the first 15 years of operations. It is only because of the contamination that all air exiting the underground through the exhaust shaft must now be filtered.

In 2018 DOE began construction on a New Filter Building (NFB), which was expected to be completed in 2020 and would have provided all necessary air for the existing underground areas. But the NFB construction has been botched and is many months behind schedule and tens of millions of dollars over budget. Though the NFB can provide the needed air without the New Shaft, the New Shaft can’t improve airflow without venting contaminated air unless the New Filter Building is in place.

Though DOE claims the New Shaft is needed for current operations, not future expansion, DOE expects to complete the New Shaft and drifts in 2023, less than a year before WIPP is supposed to cease waste emplacement operations in 2024 under the current permit. Do they really think we can believe they are spending almost $200 million on a shaft that is to be used for just a few months?

Finally, though DOE claims this is only a ventilation shaft, they, and others often refer to it as a “utility shaft” which is a better descriptive name since in the future, the shaft would include a waste hoist for operations in the new waste panels and waste rooms that will make up the rest of an expanded WIPP.

 

NAS Agrees

 

The National Academies of Sciences (NAS) examined DOE’s plans to bring more waste and new waste (like highly concentrated “surplus” plutonium) to an expanded WIPP. Their April 2020 report said that the legal capacity limit at WIPP “…is likely to be exceeded…” by DOE’s expansion plans. The NAS report further determined:

FINDING 5-4: By virtually any measure, the proposal to dilute 48.2 Metric Tons of surplus plutonium and dispose at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) represents a substantial technical and “social contract” change for WIPP and the State of New Mexico.

The NAS Report also determined that the piecemeal approach undermines the required public review:

FINDING 5-7: A segmented and incremental approach to revealing the full inventory under consideration for disposal … in WIPP … obfuscates the total anticipated inventory expected for WIPP and its consequences. An incremental approach inhibits a comprehensive review by regulators and public of the full impact of the proposed … program on a future WIPP.

 

GAO Agrees

 

In 2017, the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported:

DOE does not have sufficient space at WIPP to dispose of all defense TRU waste.

In 2020, it was the GAO – not DOE – that provided the public with the design of DOE’s plan to more than double the amount of disposal panels at WIPP.

 

It’s difficult to compare this map to the drawing at the top because the proposed “Utility Shaft” is pointing to the top, right here and is pointing to the bottom, left in the drawing. However, this map shows not only the proposed New Shaft and drifts, but also the waste panels and waste rooms. The original underground footprint is in blue. The proposed, expanded footprint is in green.

 

People Have Not Been Fooled

DOE has not presented its expansion plan to New Mexicans. But People have not been fooled. Since at least 2005 the public has been concerned about DOE’s plans to expand WIPP. That concern has continued to grow.

In 2019, 97 percent of the 295 organizations and individuals commenting on the New Shaft permit modification request, opposed that request and also objected to the proposed WIPP expansion.

In 2020, 97 percent of the 360 organizations and individuals that commented, again opposed the New Shaft draft permit, including objecting to the proposed WIPP expansion.

 

How You Can Help Stop the New Shaft and the WIPP Expansion

People can help stop this New Utility Shaft by reading NMED’s Public Notice and Fact Sheet (both in English & Spanish), reading our analysis of these documents, and by participating in the permit modification hearing. Read our future newsletters to see our analysis, read a short timeline & history of WIPP, and to find out more on how you can participate and influence the hearing process.

 

Please share this newsletter with

family, friends and colleagues

and
 

Please donate to the Stop FOREVER WIPP coalition

through our GoFundMe Page.

 

References
For More Information
Stop Forever WIPP
Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC)
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS)
Southwest Alliance
 

Santa Fe City Council Committee Considers Leaving the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities

Weighing whether to remain in or withdraw from the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, members of the City of Santa Fe Quality of Life Committee decided to ask for additional information, including information requested during similar meetings last summer and fall.  The question presented on Wednesday evening was whether to approve a restated and amended Joint Powers Agreement establishing the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kPovX3O3us  (Discussion begins at 35:21); supporting materials here.  SFCC Quality of Life RCLC JPA 3-17-21 It is scheduled to go before the full City Council on Wednesday, March 31st, but may be delayed.

The controversial Coalition formed in 2011 with the signing of the Joint Powers Agreement (JPA).  It is a coalition of communities and Pueblos in Northern New Mexico, comprised of the City of Española, Rio Arriba County, Los Alamos County, the City of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, the Town of Taos, Taos County, and the sovereign nations of Pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh and the Pueblo of Jemez.  https://regionalcoalitionnm.org/

Los Alamos County Councilor and Coalition treasurer, David Izraelevitz stated the Coalition has two focus areas, which are regional community and economic development and environmental remediation, or cleanup.  See Powerpoint beginning on p. 13 of SFCC Quality of Life RCLC JPA 3-17-21.pdf.  SFCC Quality of Life RCLC JPA 3-17-21

Recently, the City of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County each passed resolutions in support of a new site-wide environmental statement and in opposition to proposed expanded pit production.  SFCC 2021 LANL SWEIS Request Resolution and Resolution_2021-011-p0001_-_p0005.  Councilor Renee Villarreal asked how those resolutions are incorporated into the Coalition’s work.  Izraelevitz said that the Coalition has steered away from such issues and focuses on cleanup.

 

Economics and politics lack clear boundaries in the organization.  For example, the current Coalition chair, Henry Roybal, also serves as chair of the Santa Fe County Board of County Commissioners, and is a LANL employee. Commissioner Henry BIO-1 And as another example, annual dues vary between $3,500 and $60,000, as is the case of Los Alamos County.  Santa Fe pays $10,000 a year.

Izraelevitz explained that the Coalition receives a $100,000 grant from the Department of Energy, which owns LANL.  The grant prohibits lobbying.

Even so, the Coalition has a black eye because the New Mexico State Auditor found over $51,000 in improper spending over four years.  NM_OSA_FY_2018_Annual_Report.  See P. 37 -38.

At LANL’s request, the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) prepared a report about economic impacts in Northern New Mexico.  UNMBBER_LANLImpactAnalysis_Revised_101419  It found that LANL does not create economic benefits in surrounding counties.  In fact, the report concluded that LANL’s presence creates a net economic loss in Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Taos Counties, finding that Santa Fe County lost over $2.2 million, while Rio Arriba County lost over $2.6 million.  Yet Los Alamos County gained $13.6 million.  “Inequities Edited Out of Los Alamos National Lab Study,” Rio Grande Sun, by Molly Montgomery, June 26, 2020.  http://www.riograndesun.com/news/inequities-edited-out-of-los-alamos-national-lab-study/article_ea042414-b7f8-11ea-ada6-a7134ccaff97.html


1. Every Friday and Saturday from noon to 1 pm – Protest LANL signing a 10-year lease (for the former Descartes building) to establish itself in Santa Fe at the corner of Guadalupe and W. Alameda. JOIN US!  We’ll have banners.  Please bring a sign.

 

2. Ongoing – Washington-Marshall Islands Nuclear Remembrance Week: We Are Not Alone.  Thurs. March 18th through 19th from 6:30 – 8:30 pm MST and Sat. March 20th from 2:30 – 5:30 pm MST.  This week of virtual events commemorate Marshallese nuclear legacy, highlighting the Spokane Marshallese community, and bringing together frontline communities from across Washington state and the country.  For more information and to register, go to  https://www.cann-wa.us/our-work

 

3. Monday, March 29th EPA granted a four-week extension of time to provide comments about LANL industrial wastewater discharge permit.  CCNS is preparing comments in response to Triad National Security, LLC’s comments submitted on March 1, 2021.  Stay tuned for sample public comments you can use, as we get closer to the deadline.  https://www.epa.gov/nm/los-alamos-national-laboratory-lanl-limited-reopening-public-comment-period-npdes-permit-no

 

LANL W-87-1 Nuclear Warhead and Proposed Expansion into Santa Fe

The W-87-1, a new plutonium pit for a proposed nuclear warhead for fighting a full-scale nuclear war, would be fabricated at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  A plutonium pit is a grapefruit sized radioactive core of a nuclear warhead.  The plutonium pit would fit on a proposed Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent intercontinental ballistic missile.  Many people question the need for a new estimated one billion dollar weapon, which they say is “outdated and unnecessary.”  https://fas.org/issues/icbm-information-project/ (Federation of American Scientists); https://www.internationalpolicy.org/program/Arms-%26-Security-Program (Issue Brief:  Inside the ICBM Lobby:  Special Interests or The National Interest, Center for International Policy’s Arms & Security Program); and https://www.opensecrets.org/news/reports/capitalizing-on-conflict (Capitalizing on conflict:  How defense contractors and foreign nations lobby for arm sales, Center for Responsive Politics).  

The total congressional budget request for LANL in Fiscal Year 2021 is approximately $3.7 billion.  Approximately 80 percent is for nuclear weapons activities, or $3 billion.

Recently LANL signed two 10-year leases for nearly 96,000 square feet of space in three vacant office buildings in Santa Fe.  LANL plans for 75 employees to be based in one building on the corner of West Alameda and Guadalupe, and 500 more in two buildings on the hill above the intersection of St. Michael’s and Pacheco.  It is calculated that of those employees, 460 will work on nuclear weapons.

City officials and others have claimed that bringing LANL employees to Santa Fe will boost the economy.  But many of them are already in Santa Fe working virtually, such as Thom Mason, who is the LANL Director as well as President and CEO of Triad National Security, a limited liability corporation.  https://www.lanl.gov/about/leadership-governance/director.php

CCNS asks that we look more closely at LANL’s claim to boost the local economy – an extra cup of coffee in the morning, a bagel for lunch, a tank of gasoline, a trip to the bank to deposit the salaries of some of the highest paid employees in New Mexico?  LANL’s taxes are already contributing to Santa Fe’s economy. Such claims depend on redefining what is meant by “economic support” because there is no commercial product, nothing that is a benefit to the community.

CCNS asks why Santa Fe is expressing enthusiasm for LANL’s proposed expansion, when on January 22nd, just seven weeks ago, the international Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons went into force.  It is the first treaty to categorically ban nuclear weapons.  http://disarmament.un.org/treaties/t/tpnw

Like the treaties to ban chemical weapons, biological weapons, and landmines, once they went into force, the weapons manufacturers began to reduce or eliminated production and financial institutions stopped investing in such businesses.  https://thebulletin.org/2021/01/turn-back-the-clock-the-nuclear-ban-treaty-is-entering-into-force/

As a community, questioning LANL plans is essential.

Basia Miller, a CCNS Board member, said, “However the concept of ‘economic support’ is conceived, it cannot outweigh our responsibility to question LANL’s operations, which risk nearly irreversible damage to our lands, health, and lives and the wellbeing of the world.”


And don’t forget to listen to us weekly on your favorite PODCAST platform:


1. Every Friday and Saturday from noon to 1 pm – Protest LANL signing a 10-year lease (for the former Descartes building) to establish itself in Santa Fe at the corner of Guadalupe and W. Alameda. JOIN US!  We’ll have banners.  Please bring a sign.

 

 

2. Mon. March 15th through 19th from 6:30 – 8:30 pm MST and Sat. March 20th from 2:30 – 5:30 pm MST – Washington-Marshall Islands Nuclear Remembrance Week: We Are Not Alone.  The week of virtual events commemorate Marshallese nuclear legacy, highlighting the Spokane Marshallese community, and bringing together frontline communities from across Washington state and the country.  For more information and to register, go to  https://www.cann-wa.us/our-work

 

 

3. Monday, March 29thEPA granted a four-week extension of time to provide comments about LANL industrial wastewater discharge permit.  CCNS is preparing comments in response to Triad National Security, LLC’s comments submitted on March 1, 2021.  Stay tuned for sample public comments you can use, as we get closer to the deadline.  https://www.epa.gov/nm/los-alamos-national-laboratory-lanl-limited-reopening-public-comment-period-npdes-permit-no

 

WE are now PODCASTING!

CCNS works for you every day by producing the CCNS News Update radio broadcast and related social media posts. And now we’ve added podcasting to that list of avenues of information available to you. We are a grassroots non-profit organization challenging the proposed expansion of WIPP and LANL’s proposed increase in plutonium pit production. These pits are triggers for nuclear weapons. We provide information, action alerts, and sample public comments you can use to easily participate in these public processes. All of this costs money. If you appreciate our work, please make a donation TODAY to support CCNS. Thank you!

 

New Mexico Environment Department Sues DOE to Terminate 2016 Consent Order for LANL

Late last week the New Mexico Environment Department filed a lawsuit against the Department of Energy to terminate the 2016 Consent Order for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  The Consent Order is an administrative tool requiring the cleanup of radioactive, hazardous and toxic wastes stored or buried at LANL.  The lawsuit is the culmination of a failed mandated dispute resolution process required by the Order.

Environment Department Secretary James Kenney said, “[W]e are seeking to terminate the 2016 Consent Order and initiate court-supervised negotiations to renegotiate clean-up terms that protect communities and their environment.”  He described the Department’s high expectations on entering into the 2016 Order, concluding that, “[A]lmost five years later, our expectations are far from met.”   2021-02-25-NMED-seeks-termination-of-LANL-2016-Consent-Order-1 

The Department’s efforts to address legacy waste began over 20 years ago, after the May 2000 Cerro Grande fire.  The fire burned over 7,000 acres across LANL facilities above the Rio Grande.  It burned the Jemez Mountains.  It crossed LANL facilities and Los Alamos homes, opening new pathways for wastes to move through the canyons toward the Rio Grande.

After its investigation, on May 2, 2002, the Department released a Determination that conditions at LANL created an Imminent and Substantial Endangerment to Health or the Environment, along with a draft Order.  http://www.nuclearactive.org/news/050802.html  The Determination provided comprehensive information about the pollutants found on the mesas and in the canyons, the burial and storage sites and the pathways for pollutants to reach the Rio Grande.

A month later, LANL filed lawsuits in both federal and state courts to challenge the Determination and Order.  The government agencies entered into a lengthy, 18-month closed-door settlement negotiation.  On March 1, 2005, a new Consent Order was signed and the public learned that during the negotiations, the Determination had been withdrawn.  NMED-REPONSE-TO-COMMENTS-ON-LANL-CONSENT-ORDER-16251 See Response to Questions 24 and 25 on p. 8 – 9.    

During the Martinez Administration, the parties re-negotiated the 2005 Order with the ineffective 2016 Order.  Preventative pollution-reporting requirements and some public notice were eliminated, among other measures that benefited LANL.  https://nuclearactive.org/nmed-signs-new-consent-order-for-lanl-follows-failed-campaign-approach-resulting-in-lanl-shipping-faulty-waste-drum-to-wipp/

Joni Arends, of CCNS, having followed the Consent Order process of the previous two negotiations and provided public comments, insists on the critical importance for the Department to update and reinstate the Imminent and Substantial Endangerment to Health or the Environment Determination.  She points out that the same or similar risks remain.

Arends also urged the Department to open up the negotiations to the public.  She says, “We are impacted by LANL’s operations everyday.  CCNS’s vision for LANL is a site that is cleaned up; where surface and ground water flow to the Rio Grande without pollution; the air is safe to breathe; and LANL honors this Place and the People’s well-being.”


  1. Every Friday and Saturday from noon to 1 pm – Protest LANL signing a 10-year lease (for the former Descartes building) to establish itself in Santa Fe at the corner of Guadalupe and W. Alameda. JOIN US! We’ll have banners.  Please bring a sign.

 

 

  1. Thursday, March 11th – Two Virtual Events Commemorating the 10th Year Since the Fukushima Disaster.

 

a) At 7 pm MST, 6 pm PST – Mothers for Peace, San Luis Obispo with a presentation by Biologist Mary Olson of the Gender and Radiation Impact Project. Mary will introduce REFERENCE GIRL.

Yuji and Beverly Findlay Kaneko, co-producers of Voices from Japan, will provide a current update on Fukushima. 

Register at:  https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYqdOutqD0sGddniE9O2P4EimnWcl_QtaSV  For more information:  https://mothersforpeace.org/

 

b) At 6 – 7:15 pm MST, 5 – 6:15 pm PST – Oregon Physicians for SocialResponsibility will host a panel discussion about the film, Remembering Fukushima, Ten Years Later, with filmmaker Hitomi Kamanaka. He will be joined by Norma Field, Ruiko Muto and Leona Morgan.

The film begins streaming on March 1st and is available until March11th. For more information about streaming the film for $8, please go to Oregon PSR:  https://www.oregonpsr.org/remembering_fukushima_ten_years_later

The film screening and panel discussion are part of the Cascadia Arts Film Festival.

 

  1. Monday, March 29th EPA granted a four-week extension of time to provide comments about LANL industrial wastewater discharge permit. CCNS is preparing comments in response to Triad National Security, LLC’s comments submitted on March 1, 2021.  Stay tuned for sample public comments you can use, as we get closer to the deadline.  https://www.epa.gov/nm/los-alamos-national-laboratory-lanl-limited-reopening-public-comment-period-npdes-permit-no

           

 

Public Comments Needed for EPA about LANL Industrial Wastewater Discharge Permit

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reopened the comment period for the industrial wastewater discharge permit for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) facilities, including the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility.  https://www.epa.gov/nm/los-alamos-national-laboratory-lanl-limited-reopening-public-comment-period-npdes-permit-no  The Clean Water Act requires a “discharge of [a] pollutant” in order for EPA to issue a permit.  This facility has not discharged for at least a decade.  A mechanical evaporator is used to treat the wastewaters.  Nevertheless, EPA says it will issue a discharge permit for it.

If a facility that handles, treats and stores hazardous waste has a Clean Water Act permit, then it is automatically exempt from regulation by the hazardous waste laws, including the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA.  Under this exemption, LANL can avoid meeting the more protective and stringent RCRA requirements.

For example, hazardous waste regulation requires a public permitting process for approval of new construction.  LANL has avoided this requirement.  EPA admits in its Fact Sheet that LANL has “a newly constructed main low-level [liquid] waste treatment facility, [] with an estimated operational start date in 2023.”  https://www.epa.gov/nm/los-alamos-national-laboratory-lanl-limited-reopening-public-comment-period-npdes-permit-no-0  There has been no public permitting process for this new facility.  Instead, LANL and the New Mexico Environment Department have been using the New Mexico Water Quality Act regulatory definition of a “discharge permit modification” to allow the design and construction of the new facility without public knowledge.   20.6.2.7.P NMAC.

In particular, this new facility was not designed to meet the seismic risk on the Pajarito Plateau, as required by RCRA.  The risk is significant.  40 CFR 264, Appendix VI to Part 264:  Political Jurisdictions in Which Compliance with § 264.18(a) Must Be Demonstrated, including Los Alamos County.  The new wastewater treatment facility is located across the street from the site of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project.  As you may recall, the proposed super Walmart-sized Nuclear Facility was canceled due to the seismic risk on the Pajarito Plateau.  https://nuclearactive.org/obama-proposes-3-billion-for-nuclear-weapons-projects-at-lanl-in-lieu-of-cmrr-nuclear-facility/

Other RCRA requirements include assurances of the engineering integrity of the tank systems where waste treatment and storage take place, and completeness of the closure plan.  These requirements are intended for review through a public process, enabling members of the public to advocate more protective levels of public health and safety assurances than provided in the Clean Water Act.

Please raise your voice in support of the New Mexico Environment Department recommendation that all discharge sites covered by the industrial wastewater permit be sampled for PFAS.

Recent LANL and New Mexico Environment Department sampling results show levels of PFAS, or “forever pollutants,” in the canyons where LANL has historically discharged industrial wastewaters.  The sampling results in the canyons covered by the EPA discharge permit show levels of PFAS contamination at 60 times and more than the recommended lifetime exposure limits.

Here are links to recent articles about PFAS in New Mexico, as well as background information and fact sheets. https://www.newmexicopbs.org/productions/groundwater-war/stories/ and https://www.sfreporter.com/news/2021/01/19/forever-pollutants/   More information about PFAS:  https://www.env.nm.gov/pfas/main/ ,  https://www.env.nm.gov/pfas/about-pfas/  ,  https://www.env.nm.gov/pfas/data/ .

Comments are due to EPA on Monday, March 1st.  Sample public comments that you can modify for your own use are available at nuclearactive.org. EPA comment for LANL industrial discharges 2-26-21


1. Friday, Feb. 26th and Saturday, Feb. 27th from noon to 1 pm – Protest LANL signing a 10-year lease (for the former Descartes building) to establish itself in Santa Fe at the corner of Guadalupe and W. Alameda. JOIN US!  We’ll have banners.  Please bring a sign.

 

2. Monday, March 1stcomments due to EPA about LANL industrial wastewater discharge permit. See above CCNS News Update.

 

3. Tuesday, March 2nd – comments due to DOE about the proposed Versatile Test Reactor. DOE has another plan for the same 34 Metric Tons of surplus plutonium, which is as fuel for its proposed three to six billion dollar Versatile Test Reactor, a fast neutron reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory. https://www.energy.gov/ne/nuclear-reactor-technologies/versatile-test-reactor    A short sample public comment letter that you can modify is available here.  Sample comment Versatile Test Reactor 2-4-21        

    

4. Wednesday, March 3rd at 7 pm MST – San Diego Veterans for Peace, Chapter 91 virtual Zoom presentation about the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons:  Ratification and Mobilization with Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley Communities (CARES).    For more information, go to http://trivalleycares.org/