Santa Fe, NM – On Wednesday evening the Santa Fe City Council passed the following:
A resolution requesting that the New Mexico Environment Department strengthen the revised Los Alamos National Labs Cleanup Order to call for additional characterization of legacy nuclear wastes, increased cleanup funding, and significant additional safety training. The resolution also called for the suspension of any planned expanded plutonium pit production until safety issues are resolved.
The Resolution was co-sponsored by Santa Fe City Councilors Renee Villarreal, Joseph Maestas and Michael Harris, and unanimously adopted by all eight City Councilors. Mayor Javier Gonzales was not present.
Councilwoman Villarreal, who led the effort, commented:
As emphasized through this resolution, prioritizing cleanup and safety will have a direct impact on the City of Santa Fe and northern NM communities by doing right for past and historic legacy contamination, as well as recent nuclear criticality safety incidents at LANL. Regional economic development would be stimulated through comprehensive cleanup of the Lab. That would be a real win-win for northern New Mexicans, permanently protecting the environment and our water resources while providing hundreds of high paying jobs.
The passage of this Resolution is significant for northern New Mexico for many critical reasons.
The Santa Fe City Council is the first local government to take a position on the revised 2016 Consent Order governing cleanup at LANL. In Nuclear Watch’s view, the revised Consent Order was a giveaway by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to LANL, contrary to the original 2005 Consent Order, because:
- Ex-NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn, before becoming chief lobbyist for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, granted more than 150 extensions to the 2005 Consent Order at LANL’s request, and then claimed the Order wasn’t working;
- NMED’s chief negotiator for the revised 2016 Consent Order passed through the revolving door to work for a Department of Energy contractor that is now an “interested party” in bidding for the LANL management contract;
- NMED forgave more than $300 million in potential fines under the 2005 Consent Order, at a time when the State of New Mexico was facing a $600 million budget deficit; and
- The revised 2016 Consent Order lacks enforceability and allows LANL to get out of cleanup by claiming that it’s too difficult and/or costly.
- Watchdogs Assail Revolving Door Between New Mexico Environment Department and Polluters; Gov. Martinez Fails to Protect State Budget and Environment
The Santa Fe City Council is also the first local government to take a position that planned expanded plutonium pit production should be suspended until all safety issues are resolved, as certified by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. This follows a number of nuclear criticality safety incidents at the Lab, as outlined in the Resolution.
Ironically, future expanded plutonium pit production is being driven by the nuclear weapons labs for a so-called “Interoperable Warhead” that the US Navy doesn’t want.
Moreover, it was recently revealed that the Trump-appointed chairman of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board was secretly arguing for downsizing or abolishing it. Both New Mexico Senators Udall and Heinrich have rallied against that, even introducing an amendment to the FY 2018 Defense Authorization Act protecting the Safety Board. This Santa Fe City Resolution lends additional local support to the Safety Board.
The City of Santa Fe is a member of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, which is comprised of nine cities, counties and pueblos surrounding the Los Alamos Lab. The Coalition is overwhelmingly funded by Los Alamos County and the Department of Energy, and Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales is its chairman. The Regional Coalition has yet to take a position calling for enhanced nuclear safety before plutonium pit production is expanded, or against the revised 2016 Consent Order that undermines potential job creation through weak enforcement of cleanup.
Other local governments may pass resolutions similar to that just passed by the City of Santa Fe. Perhaps this could persuade the Regional Coalition to actively advocate for enhanced nuclear safety before plutonium pit production is expanded, and genuine, comprehensive cleanup that could truly drive regional economic development.