We cannot not let the U.S. Department of Energy and the out-of-state nuclear waste generators turn New Mexico into the nuclear waste capital of the United States.
Nuclear waste sites in New Mexico are prolific. The Department of Energy and the nuclear industrial waste complex want to further thrust the nuclear waste sword into the heart of New Mexico.
Congratulations to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for standing up for New Mexico. It is time for all New Mexicans to raise their voices and say, “Enough is enough.”
The many nuclear waste sites in New Mexico include:
• The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, where DOE was supposed to bury only laboratory waste contaminated with small quantities of transuranic radioactive material, according to a number of federal laws and formal agreements with the state. WIPP now contains hundreds of metric tons of transuranic waste (including plutonium), which was allowed, but also spent nuclear fuel, high-level radioactive waste from reprocessing, which has never been properly justified, and a myriad of volatile organic compounds.
• The uranium enrichment facility near Eunice operated by URENCO USA, which is licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to “temporarily store” 24,000 cylinders of uranium hexafluoride (UF6). Each cylinder can contain up to 12,500 kilograms of UF6 for a total quantity of 300,000 metric tons of UF6. UF6 is not only radioactive, it is highly corrosive, may damage the kidneys and is a reactive compound. Exposure thorough inhalation can cause nausea, vomiting and convulsions.
• Areas of New Mexico are laden with the residues of uranium mining. These areas of New Mexico release radioactive radon and radioactive radon daughter products.
• There is radioactive waste buried at Sandia National Laboratory and at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
• There are residues of nuclear detonations at the Trinity Site in Central New Mexico, the Gnome experiment near Carlsbad and the Gasbuggy experiment near Dulce/Farmington.
• DOE is now proposing to dump over 60,000 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium at WIPP, which is the most serious DOE mission creep to date.
• Having failed to open a repository for high-level commercial nuclear waste (spent nuclear fuel), DOE is now encouraging a private effort (Holtec) to bring that waste also to the vicinity of WIPP and URENCO for “interim” storage. Our governor is trying to put a stop to this project.
Enough is enough. It is high time New Mexico says, stop using this wonderful Land of Enchantment as a dumping ground for the nation’s nuclear waste for short-term gains, mortgaging the future of New Mexico and endangering New Mexico’s environment and agriculture and oil and natural gas industries.
George Anastas is a professional nuclear engineer living in New Mexico for the past 20 years and has worked in the nuclear and safety industry for over 50 years. Lokesh Chaturvedi is an expert in geophysics who has lived in New Mexico for over 40 years and has over 50 years of nuclear-related experience.