Texas Says Take Your LANL Waste Away
Decisions being made by federal and state agencies about the plutonium-contaminated waste stored at the Waste Control Specialists facility located on the Texas-New Mexico border may foreshadow how non-compliant waste may be stranded in the future. Instead of coming up with a plan to expeditiously remove the waste, the Department of Energy (DOE) wants to design and build a radiologically controlled enclosure to process the waste before shipping it off-site to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Texas has had enough and wants the waste out of Texas, but cannot force the removal.
This story begins eight years ago. On February 14, 2014, an explosion of one or more drums of plutonium-contaminated waste occurred in the deep geologic disposal facility at WIPP. Nearly 8,000 feet of the underground mine was contaminated, along with 22 workers. WIPP was shut down for nearly three years at a cost to taxpayers of $2 billion. http://nuclearactive.org/plutonium-leaks-from-wipp-while-plans-to-expand-the-sites-capacity-proposed/
Those exploding drums had been packaged at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). A March 2014 agreement allowed the LANL waste to be temporarily stored at WCS for one year. DOE later reported that some of the stored LANL waste came from the same waste stream as the exploding drums.
After several extensions of the agreement, DOE was charged with creating a plan to remove the LANL waste from Texas. Eight years later 34 shipments have gone from WCS to WIPP, but some of the waste remains at WCS. The most recent agreement expired on May 31, 2022.
On May 10, 2022, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality wrote to DOE stating that if the waste were not removed from the site and transported out of Texas, the Commission would take additional enforcement actions.
On May 19, 2022, WCS wrote to DOE stating:
As suggested in my August 21, 2019 letter to then Secretary Perry, the disparity between the federal government’s aggressive and timely efforts to treat similarly implicated waste that was in storage at LANL and the material at WCS is notable and remains ‘a significant concern for WCS and our regulator and is an impediment to restoration of normal commercial operations.’ WCS is concerned that the patience of TCEQ will be exhausted absent a greater commitment by DOE to establish date certain milestones as repeatedly requested by the agency, and as most recently committed to by DOE in a March 31, 2020 letter.
In the meantime, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved a 30-month extension for storage of 74 standard waste boxes of LANL waste still at the WCS site. NRC prepared an environmental assessment and a finding of no significant impact, or a FONSI, which support continued storage until December 31, 2024.
NRC acknowledged that the potentially explosive waste could not be moved because it no longer meets the Department of Transportation regulations. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/05/27/2022-11430/waste-control-specialists-llc
The waste may be stranded at Waste Control Specialists, located five miles east of Eunice, New Mexico. The People rely on specialized government agencies that handle and regulate radioactive materials to take extra care to protect them. In this case, the agencies may fail.
- Sunday, June 12, 2022 – 40th Anniversary of the New York City March and Rally of One Million People for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament. Free virtual commemoration event from 10 am to 2 pm MDT; noon to 4 pm ET. Register at https://www.june12legacy.com/?emci=f80a145c-9ed3-ec11-b656-281878b8c32f&emdi=7aa2d758-73d7-ec11-b656-281878b8c32f&ceid=299000
Watch Robert Richter’s film In Our Hands about the 1982 March and Rally at https://vimeo.com/590296934?emci=f80a145c-9ed3-ec11-b656-281878b8c32f&emdi=7aa2d758-73d7-ec11-b656-281878b8c32f&ceid=299000
- Sunday, June 12th – Defuse Nuclear War virtual 2 ½ hour event at 2 pm MDT; 4 pm ET. Live presentations from a wide range of speakers including Medea Benjamin, Leslie Cagan, Mandy Carter, Khury Petersen-Smith, David Swanson and Katrina vanden Heuvel. To register: https://www.codepink.org/defuse_nuclear_war06122022
World premiere of a video featuring Daniel Ellsberg on “defusing the threat of nuclear war,” produced by Oscar-nominated director Judith Ehrlich. https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_jhUM5ClzQJGAQysfNUeO2A
- Tuesday, June 14th, NM Water Quality Control Commission to consider designating over 100 miles of the Upper Rio Grande, the Rio Hondo and its tributary Lake Fork, and the Jemez River Headwaters (San Antonio Creek, East Fork, Jemez River, and Rodondo Creek) as Outstanding Waters (also known as ONRWs) under the Clean Water Act. Public comments are needed.
Take action: Conservation Voters New Mexico has a petition for you to sign at: https://secure.everyaction.com/MYLR-09-n0-21ODsisBpDg2?emci=5fe37d06-01e2-ec11-b656-281878b85110&emdi=7e7e2d50-7ce2-ec11-b656-281878b85110&ceid=796711
- Saturday, June 18, 2022 in Washington, DC – Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls – Promoting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a critical part of the wider movement for peace and justice in this country and beyond. https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/june18/
- Saturday, June 18th to Thursday, June 23rd is Nuclear Ban Week Vienna. For more information about all of the events taking place, please visit: https://vienna.icanw.org/registration
Tags: 74 standard waste boxes, Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, DOE, DOT, environmental assessment, Eunice New Mexico, finding of no significant impact, FONSI, LANL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, NRC, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, TCEQ, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, waste control specialists, Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, WCS, WIPP