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.


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family, friends and colleagues


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



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