Wednesday, May 4, 2005
LANL Wants Larger Nuke Storage Dump
By Adam Rankin
- Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer
Protest was in the air at a Santa Fe meeting Tuesday night over a planned Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear waste dump and storage facility expansion.
Panel members from the state Environment Department, the Energy Department and lab environmental watchdogs sparred among themselves and with confrontational audience members over the future of LANL's Area G.
Toward the end of the public forum, hosted and organized by the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board, audience members began distributing brightly colored posters expressing their discontent over LANL's waste production and management.
"Land of the labs, home of the waste," read one. "Like Waste? You'll Love Los Alamos," read another. "Largest nuclear waste dump in the Southwest 19 miles from the Santa Fe Plaza," read a third. And there were more.
In all, close to 150 people gathered at Santa Fe Community College to learn of LANL and DOE's plans to expand Area G by nearly 50 percent.
Tony Stanford, LANL's facilities and waste operations division leader, told the crowd that the laboratory is running out of space at Area G to permanently bury low-level radioactive waste it generates. The expansion, planned since 1999, will increase Area G by about 30 acres to 93 acres atop one of the mesas adjacent to San Ildefonso Pueblo.
Santa Fean Betsy Millard expressed bewilderment at the decision to expand the site while the lab continues to produce waste. "You've just got to stop generating this waste" until you figure out how to deal with the waste that has already been buried, she said. "This is just simple, basic responsibility."
Former San Ildefonso Gov. Gilbert Sanchez used fiery language to draw attention to his people's plight, watching what is their ancestral land become contaminated by LANL's waste facilities. "That is our sacred area," he said. "I don't think a synagogue or a Roman Catholic church would allow you to do the things that you are doing on our ancestral land."
Neil Weber, in charge of the pueblo's environment department, described the waste site and LANL's associated facilities above the pueblo land as "this insult."
LANL and DOE officials sought to assure the audience that the lab's monitoring efforts and controls maintain radioactive and chemical emissions from the site well below federal standards.
Ken Hargis, LANL's acting environmental stewardship chief, said that LANL's radioactive emissions make up about 1 percent of the dose people receive in a year just from background sources, such as the sun. He said LANL air emissions of plutonium and americium are all under 5 percent of the federal limit.
To demonstrate their good faith, DOE's John Ordaz, the assistant chief for environmental management at LANL, offered to take anyone interested on a tour of the site and gave out his office and cell phone numbers to the crowd.