Topics Limited during the Virtual Public Hearing for WIPP Expansion

Legal maneuvering by the New Mexico Environment Department and the Department of Energy (DOE), and decisions made by the Hearing Officer, have limited the scope of the virtual public hearing about whether the plan to dig a new $197 million shaft at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) will be approved.   Discussing the DOE’s plans to double the size of WIPP was prohibited.  Discussing the Temporary Authorization that allowed WIPP to begin digging the shaft in April 2020 was prohibited after the Environment Department presented its witness in support.  No discussion was allowed about the denial to reissuance the Temporary Authorization in October 2020.  During the time the Temporary Authorization was in effect, DOE dug down 116 feet into the underground.  The shaft diameter is 30 feet. , scroll down to March 10, 2021 entries.

Despite the limitations, seven individuals and non-governmental organizations persist in opposing the change to the WIPP Permit.  These Parties are the Southwest Research and Information Center , Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety , Nuclear Watch New Mexico , longtime WIPP activist Deborah Reade, former Environment Department WIPP regulator Steve Zappe, and two scientists from the former Environmental Evaluation Group, George Anastas and Dr. James Channell.

These Parties argue that the proposed change should be denied because DOE has not met the legal requirements.  DOE has not disclosed that the new shaft and associated drifts, or hallways, in the underground mine 2,150 feet below the surface in salt beds are needed for WIPP to operate for decades longer than allowed by the Permit.  DOE wants to change the Permit incrementally to avoid disclosing all of its real plans that violate laws and agreements with New Mexico.  DOE argues that the shaft is needed for ventilation.

But WIPP has operated for over 30 years with four shafts that provide the necessary airflow through the waste repository.

Other government agencies, such as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) [Nuclear Waste Disposal:  Better Planning Needed to Avoid Potential Disruption at WIPP, GAO-21-48, November 2020, gao-21-48 ] and the National Academies of Science [Review of the Department of Energy’s Plans for Disposal of Surplus Plutonium in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, 2020, ], have reviewed DOE’s plans that cannot be discussed at the hearing.  In fact, the GAO created a new diagram of the WIPP underground, based on DOE interviews and review of documents, that shows that up to nine new panels, each containing eight rooms, would be connected to the new shaft.    

Many members of the public have raised the issue that a new shaft is not needed because the Permit states that WIPP will close after 25-years of operations, or in 2024.  A 10-year closure period, where the panels, drifts, and shafts would be filled, would begin after disposal operations end.

The public hearing is on Zoom and is currently scheduled to end on Friday, May 21st.  You can make public comments beginning at noon and 6 pm each day.  Please be prompt.  You can register to speak through the Zoom chat function.  You can also watch or listen to the hearing.

Join Zoom Meeting
Phone one-tap: US: +16699006833,,91728945523#,,,,*050223# or +12532158782,,91728945523#,,,,*050223#
Meeting URL:
Meeting ID: 917 2894 5523
Passcode: 050223
Join by Telephone
For higher quality, dial a number based on your current location.
Dial: US: +1 669 900 6833 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 929 436 2866 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799
Meeting ID: 917 2894 5523
Passcode: 050223


Written comments may be submitted to the Hearing Clerk at .  Please add the following language to the subject line:  HWB 21-02 WIPP SHAFT .

Any person having a disability and requiring assistance or auxiliary aid to participate in this process should contact Suzette Porter, NMED Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator, by phone at (505) 827-2109, or via email at:
Toll-free numbers are available for TDD or TDY users to access the New Mexico Relay Network at 1-800-659-1779 (voice); TTY users: 1-800-659-8331.

Any person needing language services (e.g., an interpreter at a public meeting or hearing, document translation) should contact Ricardo Maestas at (505) 476-6000 or by e-mail at:
Please note that Spanish interpretation services will be provided during this proceeding. The Zoom platform provides an option to listen to, ask questions, and provide comments at the public hearing in Spanish. The following are instructions for listening to language interpretation on the Zoom platform:

For Windows/macOS:
1. In your meeting/webinar controls, click Interpretation.
2. Click the language that you would like to hear.
3. (Optional) To hear the interpreted language only, click Mute Original Audio.

For Android/iOS:
1. In your meeting controls, tap the ellipses icon (…).
2. Tap Language Interpretation.
3. Tap the language you would like to hear.
4. (Optional) Tap the toggle to Mute Original Audio.
5. Click Done.

In addition, NMED is providing a call-in conference line for persons without the ability to access Zoom:
Spanish Call-In Conference Line: 800-747-5150
When prompted, enter Access Code: 3453860

Did You Know?  We are Podcasting! 


1.  Every Friday from noon to 1 pm – Protest LANL signing a 10-year lease (for the former Descartes building) to establish itself “permanently” in Santa Fe at the corner of Guadalupe and W. Alameda.  JOIN Veterans for Peace, CCNS, Nuclear Watch NM, and others.  We’ll have banners.  Please bring a sign.


2. Mon. May 17th – Fri. May 21 – Virtual Public Hearing about Proposed Shaft for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). For more information in English and Spanish:

*  NM Environment Department at (scroll down to March 10, 2021 entry),

*  Stop Forever WIPP Coalition at , ; and

*  CCNS at





Please see the five-part Stop Forever WIPP Coalition newsletters about the proposed shaft, the public hearing, how you can participate, and sample comment letters you can use.  Newsletter No. 4 available in Spanish! ; and

Create your own short video about your concerns for putting more plutonium on the roads resulting in increased exposures to radiation to their neighborhood and communities.  Sample videos are available at the Stop Forever WIPP Facebook page, and YouTube, also; on YouTube you will find animations, “Broken Promises, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4,” as well as recent radio interviews on KUNM, and KSFR, KNIZ.


Four short sample videos are available here:  “New Mexico is Not the Nation’s Nuclear Toilet;” ; “This is My Neighborhood,” ;  “These are Our Neighborhoods,” ;  and “Why I’m Concerned for OUR Neighborhoods,”


3. May 20th to May 30thOnline for free – 10th International Uranium Film Festival Rio de Janeiro. “The 10th International Uranium Film Festival Rio de Janeiro remembers the still unsolved nuclear accident in Fukushima 10 years ago and the UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, which has been in force since January of this year. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, it will be the festival’s first online edition with support by the Cinematheque (link is external) of Rio de Janeiro’s prestigious Modern Art Museum (MAM Rio) (link is external).”  For more information:


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


No comments so far.

  • Leave a Reply
    Your gravatar
    Your Name