Public Comments Needed for URENCO Discharge Permit

(Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

URENCO is a uranium enrichment facility that uses centrifuges to separate uranium for fuel in nuclear power plants.  The “waste” is stored on-site in uranium by-product cylinders, or UBCs.  The facility is located 4.5 miles east of Eunice, New Mexico, near the Texas border.  The New Mexico Environment Department plans to renew the groundwater discharge permit, known as DP-1481, for another five years. Public comments are needed.  CCNS has prepared a short fact sheet and sample public comment letter you can use to submit your comments to the Environment Department by Wednesday, March 11th.   Comment letter available HERE: URENCO sample public comment ltr 3-10-20

Activists have noted with satisfaction the Environment Department’s efforts to improve how the public is notified about the availability of the draft permit, and feel encouraged, but they remain concerned about the permit itself. The documents are more detailed and they explain the public process for English and Spanish speakers to equally and fully participate.

The permit allows for the “discharge” of stormwaters and industrial waters into two ponds – one is lined with high-density polyethylene, but the other is unlined, which provides a direct route to groundwater.  Through use of the ponds, the waters are evaporated into the air.  The permit allows the discharge of approximately 20 million gallons a day to the ponds.

The storage capacity for both ponds is based on a 100-year return frequency storm resulting in 6.45 inches of rainfall in 24 hours.  A question remains about the impacts of climate change:  Is the 100-year return storm the most accurate storm to determine storage capacity?

Pond 1 is unlined and has a capacity of 32.6 million gallons, with a surface area of approximately 17 acres.  It collects waters drained from about 96 acres.

Pond 2 is lined and contains two cells.  Together the cells have a storage capacity of 10.4 million gallons and a surface area of about 5 acres.  It drains an area of approximately 23 acres.

The permit requires monitoring of the shallow groundwater, as well as the deeper groundwater found 90 to 240 feet below ground surface, by sampling twelve monitoring wells and reporting the results semi-annually.  There are no provisions for treatment of the water before it enters the ponds.  If contaminants from the large UBC storage pad, roads, parking lots, and building rooftops are in the stormwater, those contaminants will end up in the ponds.  Ultimately they could be volatilized and end up in the air or soak into the shallow and deep groundwater.

Please consider using the fact sheet and sample public comment letter to develop your comments and get them in to the Environment Department on or before Wednesday, March 11th. Comment letter above, fact sheet HERE: URENCO groundwater discharge permit fact sheet 3-10-20

1. There are many upcoming events, including dates for the NRC public meetings for the Holtec draft environmental impact statement, which are detailed in the March 2020 calendar, which is available HERE: 2020 Events 3-5-20    Here is a listing of this week’s events:

2. Tuesday, March 10th at 2 pm, you are invited to join CCNS, Taosenos for Peaceful and Sustainable Futures, and others at the St. Francis statute at Santa Fe City Hall at the corner of Lincoln and Marcy as we prepare to deliver signed petitions to Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representative Lujan about plans to expand plutonium pit production at LANL. The petition ask them to demand DOE conduct a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) followed by a new site-wide environmental impact statement (SWEIS) for LANL before any proposed expanded plutonium pit production and associated infrastructure projects begin. 

~At 2 pm, after short introductions, we’ll walk two blocks to Senator Heinrich’s office at 123 East Marcy Street.  Staff members from Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representative Lujan’s offices will be there to accept the petition signatures.  We will then walk over to the Roundhouse and deliver the petition signatures to the Governor’s office on the fourth floor.

~People can park at the PERA parking lot, east of the Roundhouse, if that would be convenient, and walk to City Hall.  There are no parking fees in that parking lot.

~Download the PEIS before SWEIS petition HERE: Petition PEIS before LANL SWEIS 2-26-20  Modify as needed.  Replace CCNS with your group’s name.

3. Sunday, March 15th from 1 to 5 pm. You are cordially invited to attend the Third Annual Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium Benefit at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, in Albuquerque.  There will be music, dancing, door prizes, a silent auction, food and drinks, and lots of fun!  For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit

~For those in the Santa Fe area interested in donating gift cards and silent auction items for the benefit, please contact Joni Arends at CCNS at 505 986-1973.  Thank you!


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