FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 25, 2021
The New Mexico Environment Department has announced that it is filing a lawsuit against the Department of Energy to terminate a “Consent Order” governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Nuclear Watch New Mexico, which has fought against that Consent Order ever since it went into effect nearly five years ago, strongly supports and applauds NMED’s decision.
Much to its credit, in 2005 the State of New Mexico successfully compelled DOE to enter into a strong, enforceable Consent Order after years of tough negotiations and lawsuits brought against it by DOE and the University of California (then LANL’s manager). However, at the Lab’s request the anti-regulation Susanna Martinez Administration eviscerated that Consent Order with more than 150 milestone extensions. Further, in a process riddled with conflicts of interest, the Martinez Administration negotiated a revised 2016 Consent Order that subordinated cleanup to the budget that DOE wants instead of having cleanup drive the budget. As a direct result, DOE added $900 million to LANL’s nuclear weapons programs in FY 2021 alone (to a total of $2.9 billion) while proposing to cut cleanup by nearly half to $120 million (fortunately Congress blocked that cut).
THE Associated Press (AP) this week reported that a barrage of North Korean missiles fired from both the ground and fighter jets splashed down on the waters off the peninsular’s east coast on Tuesday. AP further reports that North Korea also launched several Sukhoi-class fighter jets that fired an unspecified number of air-to-surface missiles toward the North’s eastern waters. According to a South Korean defence official, North Korea seems to be resuming its military drills that it had scaled back due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. This, consequently, pushing back the deadlocked denuclearisation negotiations fostered by the United Nations.
“Researchers from Northern Arizona University (NAU) found extensive plutonium “hot” particles in soil near the former Rocky Flats nuclear site. Particles this size can be inhaled and lodged in lung tissue, increasing risk of radioactive exposure from inhalation.”
DENVER (KDVR) – Researchers Michael Ketterer and Scott Szechenyi from (NAU) concluded, “These particles are found to be pervasive in non-US Government land east of Rocky Flats, and it is reasonable to believe that ongoing wind transport is continuing to spread the contamination across open space used by the public, and toward residential areas.”
Surface soil was collected from the Jefferson County right-of-way property immediately west of Indiana Street in 2019.
“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.
“I find it just astonishing that they would do that in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. How the NRC can look themselves in the mirror to propose massive deregulation and do it in the midst of the pandemic, I find it just ethically shocking.” — Dan Hirsch, former director of the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy
Scientists and advocates are raising concerns about a proposed relaxation on regulations for disposing of nuclear waste, saying that the government should halt the proposal as the scientific community focuses on the coronavirus.
A March 6 Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) proposal would allow for the disposal of some nuclear waste in municipal landfills, rather than a licensed facility.
Advocates say the proposal could put public health at risk, pushing the NRC to give the public more time to weigh in.
Every base where legacy nuclear weapons (early-generation) were deployed (Bomber, Fighter Interceptor Squadrons (FIS), Nike Ajax, BOMARC Missile, ICBM), were maintained, or decommissioned, is potentially contaminated with highly classified 91(b) radioactive material (RAM) from the maintenance of the nuclear weapons during the replacing of the polonium-beryllium (Po-Be) TOM initiators.
There is an under-reported news story about radioactive contamination at Air Force bases that were closed and transferred to the public by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).
“Environmental groups and former Obama administration officials described the policy as an unprecedented relaxation of rules for petrochemical plants and other major polluters.”
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution.
The move comes amid an influx of requests from businesses for a relaxation of regulations as they face layoffs, personnel restrictions and other problems related to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Federal scientists and lawyers, told to undo regulations that some have worked on for decades, have embedded data into technical documents that environmental lawyers are using to challenge the rollbacks.”
“WASHINGTON — President Trump has made rolling back environmental regulations a centerpiece of his administration, moving to erase Obama-era efforts ranging from landmark fuel efficiency standards and coal industry controls to more routine rules on paint solvents and industrial soot.
The site in Eastern Washington was used during World War II and the Cold War to produce plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program. It was left massively contaminated with radioactive and hazardous chemical waste, which is being cleaned up now at a cost of about $2.5 billion a year.
Thousands of Hanford workers will stay home for a second day Tuesday after the Department of Energy announced Sunday evening that the site was going into a temporary planning status to ensure the safety of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Only workers essential to the nuclear reservation’s safety and security should report to work, unless they receive a call from their supervisor saying they are needed for planning work, DOE said.
Hanford employs about 9,300 workers, plus some additional subcontractor employees.
New Mexico’s congresspeople called on the federal government to extend a public comment period for an environmental impact statement (EIS) on a proposal by Holtec International to build a nuclear waste repository in southeast New Mexico.
The letter signed by U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and U.S. Reps. Xochitl Torres Small, Ben Ray Lujan Deb Haaland (D-NM), urged the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to extend the 60-day public comment period until public hearings could be held in New Mexico.
The request followed a State ban on gatherings of more than 10 people amid a global outbreak of coronavirus that left thousands dead across the world.
The comment period began Friday as the draft environmental impact statement was published in the Federal Register.
This is the list of extensions to requirements of the Consent Order requested by LANL and approved or denied by the NM Environment Department.
The agreement of the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to address the highest risk above-ground transuranic waste currently in Technical Area 54 at LANL.