Will Construction be Delayed on the New Shaft at WIPP?

Two appeals have been filed in the New Mexico Court of Appeals to challenge the decision by New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney to approve the new shaft at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety filed the second appeal on November 29th.  On November 9th, Southwest Research and Information Center and Cynthia Weehler had filed the first appeal.  https://www.env.nm.gov/opf/docketed-matters/ , scroll down to HWB 21-02 – APPEAL:  Waste Isolation Pilot Plant:  Class 3 Permit Modification Request, “Excavation of a New Shaft and Associated Connecting Drifts.

 SRIC and Weehler also asked Secretary Kenney for a stay, that is, a delay, of shaft construction until the Court of Appeals rules on their appeal.  On the stay motion, Secretary Kenney can grant, or deny, or take no action.  If he does not grant the stay, or if he takes no action by January 10th, a stay motion then could be filed with the Court of Appeals.  https://www.env.nm.gov/opf/docketed-matters/ , scroll down to HWB 21-02 –Waste Isolation Pilot Plant:  Class 3 Permit Modification Request, “Excavation of a New Shaft and Associated Connecting Drifts.  Unfortunately, key documents are missing, including the SRIC/Weehler Motion for Stay Pending Appeal, the Hearing Officer’s Report and the Secretary’s Final Order.

The stay motion was supported by three affidavits.  Cynthia Weehler stated that she purchased her home near U.S. Highway 285 knowing that the WIPP Permit anticipated that shipments to WIPP would end in 2024.  Now, the WIPP expansion plan that requires the new shaft “would result in thousands of additional shipments coming near my house for many decades.”  She is very concerned that accidents could result in health effects and “such shipments will reduce my property values.”

Kathleen Wan Povi Sanchez, an Elder from the Tewa Pueblo of San Ildefonso and among the founding mothers of Tewa Women United, stated in her affidavit that an increase in waste transportation near two schools located on New Mexico Highway 502 would endanger the health of Pueblo children in attendance.  Further, “The WIPP expansion plan would result in thousands of new shipments using [] Highway 502 for decades transporting plutonium from the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas to [Los Alamos National Laboratory], and from [Los Alamos] to the Savannah River Site, followed by shipments from that site to WIPP.”

Steve Zappe, who worked on WIPP for 17 years at the Environment Department, provided the third affidavit.  He pointed out that new shaft construction was stopped in October 2020, and that the construction that had occurred was required to be reversible in case the shaft was not permitted.  He stated that the Environment Department “should be equally considerate towards the judicial review process as it was in the administrative permit modification process, to ensure the courts have sufficient time to review objectively the facts and arguments associated with the appeal.”

The Environment Department Hazardous Waste Bureau, the Department of Energy, and the WIPP contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, oppose the stay motion.  https://www.env.nm.gov/hazardous-waste/ and https://wipp.energy.gov/


1. In 2022, CCNS will continue our legal challenges to the unprotective decisions made by the New Mexico Environment Department about WIPP and LANL. Your financial support is needed to keep these challenges going.  Please make an end of the year contribution to our Legal Defense Fund.  Contribute today at http://nuclearactive.org/  Thank you!


2. By Friday, December 31st, email Know Nukes Tokyo, a non-political organization run by university students in Japan, your short message to the Japanese government urging it to participate in the Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations Office in Vienna, March 22 to 24, 2022.

Know Nukes Tokyo will share your messages via social media to raise public awareness, while simultaneously, it will submit them to the Japanese government!  Please click this link to fill out the form and send us your message!


3. Saturday, January 22, 2022 from 1 to 3 pm at Ashley Pond in Los Alamos – First Anniversary Celebration of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons!!! Join Veterans for Peace, CCNS, Nuclear Watch NM and others to celebrate and commemorate the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty!!!   As we get closer to the event, more information will be available.


Enjoy your holidays!


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