Pending Action Alert: Los Alamos May Host ANOTHER Virtual Public Information Session on Controversial Tritium Release

Next meeting: Date & Time TBA

Claiming the need to reduce the amount of waste stored on site, LANL plans to ship four of the containers of tritium off-site. Pueblos, the public, and public interest groups, including NukeWatch have questioned the plans to potentially release over 110,000 curies of radioactive tritium into the air.

In order to ship the containers, the pressurized gases inside the containers must be vented. The Flanged Tritium Waste Containers (FWTCs) are pressure vessels designed to contain waste that has been exposed to tritium. As tritium ages, it separates into helium and hydrogen, which can create pressure inside a container.

Selected Literature on the Potential Health Effects of Tritium

Summary: The Los Alamos National Laboratory’s planned release of up to 100,000 curies of radioactive tritium from four “Flanged Tritium Waste Containers” could impact public health. Of particular concern could be human female reproductive capability. LANL has sat on its tritium containers since 2008 and has not made clear why venting before this winter is so urgent now. The Lab has also not stated what (if any) alternatives it has considered to open venting. Before proceeding with venting LANL must obtain “temporary authorization” from the New Mexico Environment Department. NMED should not grant that temporary authorization until LANL has supplied it with a comprehensive analysis of alternatives and documentation of little to no expected public health impacts, all subject to public review and comment.

The Laboratory’s process for venting FTWCs includes a filtering system to capture tritium during venting. The venting process will undergo real-time monitoring to in an effort to protect workers and the public by stopping the venting well before any regulatory limits are reached. The Lab states that the venting process will be carefully monitored and the final results will be made available to the public.
LANL hosted a virtual public meeting earlier this week  on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. There were so many requests for another meeting that the lab has said they will likely host another virtual session next week at the same time. The lab was highly critiqued for the poor quality of the first virtual meeting, with many commenters pointing out the discrepancy of the lab being touted for its “technology leadership” as a “premier nuclear lab” and hosting a meeting with so many feedback and participation issues. LANL has said they will try to resolve these before the next call.
Attendees should join the webinar 15 minutes early. This will allow time to install or download any needed software or applications and confirm that attendees are able to connect to both audio and video. All required software is free of charge to all participants. While Webex software is intended to run on all commercial internet browsers (such as Internet Explorer and Safari), Webex recommends using Chrome or Firefox internet browsers for the best experience.
Because the session will be 90 minutes long, attendees are asked to register for the event by sending their name and organization to along with any questions they may have.
Here are some of the questions we plan to ask:
1) Please explain the explosive potential of the FTWCs. What are the risks should an explosion occur? Why do the potential public health risks of venting outweigh the risks of not venting?
2) LANL has sat on the FTWCs since 2008. What is the urgency in venting them now?
3) What are the alternatives to open venting?
4) Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years. Why not just let the tritium decay away to reduce the public health risk?
5) Please provide proof that tritium will be captured during venting, and at what percentage, instead of general, unsubstantiated statements.
6) The Lab asserts that the releases will be carefully monitored. Please explain. What is the quality assurance? These questions are particularly salient given LANL’s past history of noncompliance with the Clean Air Act.
7) The Lab claims the need to reduce the amount of waste stored on site as a reason to ship four containers of tritium off-site. When will the Lab to see the need to reduce the amount of all waste stored at LANL.
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