Atomic Histories & Nuclear Testing
LANL’s Central Mission: Los Alamos Lab officials have recently claimed that LANL has moved away from primarily nuclear weapons to “national security”, but what truly remains as the Labs central mission? Here’s the answer from one of its own documents:
LANL’s “Central Mission”- Presented at: RPI Nuclear Data 2011 Symposium for Criticality Safety and Reactor Applications (PDF) 4/27/11
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“The coronavirus pandemic demonstrates why we should get cleanup done once and for all,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “What we do as humans ebbs and flows with history, but the radioactive and toxic wastes that we leave behind last longer than our recorded history. We should be acting now.”
The U.S. government’s efforts to clean up Cold War-era waste from nuclear research and bomb making at federal sites around the country has lumbered along for decades, often at a pace that watchdogs and other critics say threatens public health and the environment.
Now, fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic is resulting in more challenges as the nation’s only underground repository for nuclear waste finished ramping down operations Wednesday to keep workers safe.
ARTICLE BY: LAURA WATCHEMPINO | MULTICULTURAL ALLIANCE FOR A SAFE ENVIRONMENT, PUEBLO OF ACOMA
If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s conclusion that it’s safe to move spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants across the country to a proposed storage facility in Lea County sounds vanilla-coated, it’s because the draft environmental impact statement for a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility submitted by Holtec International did not address how the casks containing the spent fuel would be transported to New Mexico.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation are requesting that federal regulators extend the public comment period for an environmental review related to a multibillion-dollar complex that would store spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants around the United States.
“I can’t understand why this administration does not value cleanup and would risk breaking the legal commitments [the Department of Energy] has made to the state of New Mexico with budget numbers like that,” Heinrich said. “Why is the cleanup number so abysmal in this budget?”
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich fired tough questions and caustic comments at Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette on Tuesday over the proposed $100 million cut in Los Alamos National Laboratory’s cleanup program for radioactive waste it produced during the Manhattan Project and Cold War.
“The Trump Administration again proposes to cut DOE’s budget — by 8 percent overall, and by an astounding 35 percent in non-defense programs. This will limit America’s future by drastically reducing or eliminating programs critical for meeting our future energy needs and assuring our security,” – Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse (Wash.) accused the Trump administration of “playing politics” on Thursday with its reversal on funding for a nuclear waste repository in Nevada.
“I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to see this administration playing politics with something as important as completing the permanent solution to our nation’s high-level nuclear waste,” Newhouse said during a hearing on the administration’s proposed Department of Energy (DOE) budget.
“This budget is … a total waste of resources and a distraction from solving this very important issue,” he added.
President Trump announced this month that he no longer supports funding the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site, reversing his position on a controversial matter in a key state in November’s elections. The change was reflected in his budget proposal for fiscal year 2021.
Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said during the hearing that the administration would not proceed with either licensing for Yucca Mountain or an interim storage facility.
“My understanding [is] under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act we are prohibited from starting construction on an interim facility, a federal facility,” Brouillette said.
Democrats also criticized the administration over cuts included in the budget proposal.
“The Trump Administration again proposes to cut DOE’s budget — by 8 percent overall, and by an astounding 35 percent in non-defense programs. This will limit America’s future by drastically reducing or eliminating programs critical for meeting our future energy needs and assuring our security,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, in her opening statement.
“Your budget proposes deep and arbitrary cuts that threaten progress one one of our most pressing challenges and that is climate change. We can be a leader in exporting clean energy technologies, but not under your budget request,” Kaptur added later in the hearing.
In response, Brouillette said, “Renewable technologies are becoming somewhat mature in the marketplace, so for us to focus again on these technologies that are now commercially widely available seems to us to be inappropriate.”
Trump’s budget request would reduce spending significantly at several energy and environment-related agencies, including the energy department. Trump has consistently proposed cutting funding such agencies, and Congress has routinely ignored those proposals and instead increased funding.
“There’s enough high-level nuclear waste awaiting disposal in the U.S. to fill a football field 65 feet (20 meters) deep. Few states want to house it within their borders.”
“The public defines ‘safe’ as zero risk…the technical community defines ‘safe’ as complying with regulatory standards.” – Robert Halstead, head of the Agency for Nuclear Projects, is currently fighting plutonium shipments to Nevada and spent nuclear fuel transfers to the proposed Yucca Mountain dump.
The plutonium core for the first atomic weapon detonated in 1945 was taken from Los Alamos National Laboratory to a test site in the New Mexico desert in the backseat of a U.S. Army sedan.
Officials put other bomb parts inside a metal container, packed it into a wooden crate and secured it in the steel bed of a truck under a tarp, the U.S. Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration says in a historical account.
Grainy black-and-white photos show special agents and armed military police accompanying the shipment nearly 75 years ago.
“Nuclear materials transportation has evolved since then,” the department posted online last year.
Today, radioactive shipments are hauled in double-walled steel containers inside specialized trailers that undergo extensive testing and are tracked by GPS and real-time apps.
But whether shipping technology has evolved enough to be deemed safe depends on whom you ask.
The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC) Board met Thursday in Española.
The meeting included a presentation by Holtec International Program Director Ed Mayer describing the safety features of a proposed storage site in southern New Mexico should the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issue the New Jersey-based company a 40-year license. If that happens, Holtec would build a multibillion-dollar site to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors around the United States.
“Our job is to prove the facility is safe and secure,” Mayer said.
“Why should we be the ones to take this negative project on and put up with the consequences?” says Rose Gardner, a florist who lives 35 miles from the proposed site. “We know it’s supposed to be consent-based. They’re not getting consent. The actual people aren’t for it. And without community support, it won’t go.”
Thirty-five miles out of Carlsbad, in the pancake-flat desert of southeast New Mexico, there’s a patch of scrub-covered dirt that may offer a fix — albeit temporarily — to one of the nation’s most vexing and expensive environmental problems: What to do with our nuclear waste?
Despite more than 50 years of searching and billions of dollars spent, the federal government still hasn’t been able to identify a permanent repository for nuclear material. No state seems to want it.
So instead, dozens of states are stuck with it. More than 80,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel, a still-radioactive byproduct of nuclear power generation, is spread across the country at power plants and sites in 35 states.
The issue has dogged politicians for decades. Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently described the situation as a “logjam.” But some hope that this remote, rural corner of New Mexico may present a breakthrough.
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Multiple concerns were raised by panel members Wednesday June 21, 2019 during a forum on nuclear waste in the state of New Mexico hosted by the Santa Fe Democratic Party Platform and Resolutions Committee at the Center for Progress and Justice in Santa Fe.
Land Commissioner Garcia Richard said her office has direct oversight of mineral leasing at the proposed Holtec site. She made public a letter she sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expressing her concerns about representations made by Holtec to the NRC and New Mexicans about its control of the proposed site as well as agreements it claims to have secured from the state Land Office. She said while the Eddy-Leah County Energy Alliance LLC privately owns the surface of the proposed site, the State Land Office owns the mineral estate and that has not been disclosed by Holtec.
mynorthwest.com June 7, 2019
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s governor said Friday she’s opposed to plans by a New Jersey-based company to build a multibillion-dollar facility in her state to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors around the U.S.
In a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the interim storage of high-level radioactive waste poses significant and unacceptable risks to residents, the environment and the region’s economy.
She cited the ongoing oil boom in the Permian Basin, which spans parts of southeastern New Mexico and West Texas, as well as million-dollar agricultural interests that help drive the state’s economy.
Any disruption of agricultural or oil and gas activities as a result of a perceived or actual incident would be catastrophic, she said, adding that such a project could discourage future investment in the area.
“Establishing an interim storage facility in this region would be economic malpractice,” she wrote.
Holtec International has defended its plans, citing unmet obligations by the federal government to find a permanent solution for dealing with the tons of waste building up at nuclear power plants.
The loading of 3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel has been indefinitely halted at the San Onofre independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI), operated by Southern California Edison and designed by Holtec International.
Last month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) fined Southern California Edison an unprecedented $116,000 for failing to report the near drop of an 54 ton canister of radioactive waste, and is delaying giving the go-ahead to further loading operations until serious questions raised by the incident have been resolved.
Critics have long been pointing out that locating a dump for tons of waste, lethal for millions of years, in a densely populated area, adjacent to I-5 and the LA-to-San Diego rail corridor, just above a popular surfing beach, in an earthquake and tsunami zone, inches above the water table, and yards from the rising sea doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense from a public safety standpoint.
The near drop incident last August, revealed by a whistleblower, has drawn further attention to the many defects in the Holtec-designed and manufactured facility. It has been discovered that the stainless steel canisters, only five-eights inches thick, are being damaged as they are lowered into the site’s concrete silos. Experts have warned that the scratching or gouging that is occurring makes the thin-walled canisters even more susceptible to corrosion-induced cracking in the salty sea air, risking release of their deadly contents into the environment and even of hydrogen explosions.
Furthermore, critics point out, these thin-walled canisters are welded shut and cannot be inspected, maintained, monitored or repaired.
A federal board that oversees commercial nuclear materials and licenses said Tuesday it has rejected a request by a group of opponents over a proposed nuclear waste storage site in Southern New Mexico.
Holtec International, a New Jersey-based company specializing in nuclear reactor technology, is waiting on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to approve its license for an expansive facility that could be used to hold all of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel — radioactive uranium left over from power production.
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board is asking Department of Energy (DOE) Environment Management and New Mexico Environment Department to address the potential impacts of the possible redefinition of high-level radioactive waste (HLW) for the board.
Critics: WIPP proposal would allow more nuclear waste storage
By Rebecca Moss | sfnewmexican.com
Sep 19, 2018 Updated Sep 19, 2018
As the public comment period closes Thursday on modifications to a state permit allowing the federal government to store nuclear waste at a southeastern New Mexico repository, critics are decrying the changes as an effort to increase storage capacity at the site and are accusing the state Environment Department of rushing the approval process.
The U.S. Department of Energy and Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, a private contractor that manages the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, submitted a request early this year to change the way radioactive waste at the site is measured.
They want to measure the waste by the volume inside each waste drum rather than by the total number of containers at the site. WIPP can store a maximum of 6.2 million cubic feet of transuranic waste — discarded tools, soil and equipment contaminated by plutonium and other radioactive materials — in its underground salt-bed caverns. But its capacity has been measured so far by the total volume of the waste drums, not the materials held inside them.
State lawmakers maintained they will have a say in a proposed facility to store high-level nuclear waste near Carlsbad and Hobbs, despite an opinion issued by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas suggesting New Mexico will have a limited role in licensing the project.
New Mexico Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-36), who chairs the New Mexico Radioactive and Hazardous Waste Committee said Balderas’ opinion was informative but did not preclude lawmakers from preventing the facility from operating.
The committee convened in May to study the project proposed by New Jersey-based Holtec International, and held its third meeting on Wednesday at University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.
Opposed to the project, Steinborn said state lawmakers owe their constituents a full review of the proposal.
“I think it’s kind of a troubling deficiency in the government if the state doesn’t have to give consent to have something like this foisted upon it,” he said. “The State of New Mexico owes it to the people to look at every aspect of it.”
No High-Level Waste To New Mexico
"The most toxic and dangerous type of radioactive waste created by the nuclear industry"
This is waste generated by nuclear power plants called 'high-level radioactive waste' (HLW), also known as 'spent' or 'irradiated' fuel. This waste contains plutonium, uranium, strontium, and cesium; and will be radioactive for millions of years.
It is not like the waste currently stored at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) or any other waste site that exists today in the U.S.: it is far worse.
Two companies are proposing to build waste facilities near Carlsbad and Hobbs for the most toxic and dangerous type of radioactive waste created by the nuclear industry.
Holtec International is working with the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance, LLC (ELEA) to apply for a license to build a Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS) facility approximately halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs, and 16 miles north of WIPP.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has declared the Holtec/ELEA application complete, NRC initiated a public comment period with 60 days for public comment. Note that transport of this waste poses risks to the environment and all life located near transportation routes.
- New CIS facility to store 100,000 metric tons of HLRW, with the potential to increase to 120,000 metric tons for 120 years
- Shallow sub-surface burial system
New Mexicans and Texans are fighting the attempted licensing of these two proposed CIS facilities - Waste Control Specialists near Andrews, Texas and Eddy Lee/Holtec International east of Carlsbad, New Mexico.
These sites and any transport to these sites are not only dangerous but environmentally unjust. These sites present clear examples of environmental racism.
New Mexico's demographic is largely Latino. There are many communities of color, especially in the southern part of the state where the sites are being proposed. People of color would be disproportionately affected if the Eddy Lee/Holtec CIS site were licensed and constructed.
New Mexico and Texas do not consent to either proposed CIS facility and are fighting to avoid the environmental injustice and the unnecessary shipment of irradiated high-level nuclear waste through their communities.
A Better Option: Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS)
Click the image to view and download this large printable map of DOE sites, commercial reactors, nuclear waste dumps, nuclear transportation routes, surface waters near sites and transport routes, and underlying aquifers. This map was prepared by Deborah Reade for the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.
Nuclear Watch Interactive Map – U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex