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COUNCIL, et. al., ) 
Plaintiffs. ) 
v. )  Civil Action No. CV-97-936-SS 
FEDERICO PENA, et. al., ) 
Defendants. ) 


I, Gregory Mello, hereby declare as follows this 29th day of March, 1997:

1.  I received my bachelor's degree from Harvey Mudd College in 1971, where I majored in systems engineering.  I received my master's degree in regional planning, with emphasis on environmental sciences, from Harvard University in 1975.  I began work for the New Mexico state Environmental Improvement Division (EID) (now Department) in 1984, and in that year was assigned leadership of hazardous waste enforcement activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), among other responsibilities.  I conducted a number of site visits at LANL in 1984 and 1985, particularly of the waste treatment, storage, and disposal areas, and initiated enforcement actions, which led to a compliance order from the EID.  In March of 1985 I completed a review of all literature concerning the hydrogeology of LANL's low-level radioactive waste (low-level radwaste, or LLW) disposal area at Technical Area (TA) 54, Area G.  That report included an original analysis of the water balance at Area G and a detailed design for an investigation and monitoring system to resolve hydrogeological uncertainties at the site.  That report was used as the basis of agency compliance negotiations with LANL regarding these issues.  In 1987 and 1988 I worked for the Department as a supervisory geohydrologist on the remediation of hydrocarbon contamination at a large number of sites throughout the state.  In 1989 through 1992 I worked as a consulting geohydrologist on a variety of contamination cases in New Mexico and California, including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

2.  Since May 1992 I have been the Director of the Los Alamos Study Group, a non-profit public interest group whose purpose is to understand and educate the public regarding activities at LANL and other nuclear weapons laboratories.  In that capacity I, together with those I have supervised, have attempted to maintain complete files of public information regarding the Area G radioactive waste disposal site, using numerous informal requests as well as formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.  In 1993, my colleagues and I organized several joint fact-finding meetings regarding issues surrounding the potential expansion of Area G, which involved the participation of many tribal and not-for-profit representatives with senior Department of Energy (DOE) and LANL officials in Los Alamos and in Washington, D.C.  In addition to those joint meetings, I have conducted numerous personal and telephone interviews with cognizant LANL and DOE officials in an attempt to be as informed as possible regarding this subject.

3.  The most important of my conclusions, described more fully below, regarding the disposal of radioactive waste at LANL are as follows:

a.  All near-surface radioactive waste disposal, such as that practiced at LANL, involves long-term and irreparable negative environmental impacts which cannot be foretold with accuracy for more than a few decades.  Under the most optimistic assumptions, such disposal entails the permanent sacrifice and maintenance of the disposal area and a suitable buffer zone.

b.  TheArea G low-level radioactive waste (LLW) disposal site, the only such site at LANL, is running out of capacity, and all other onsite disposal options will have more deleterious environmental impacts than the existing site.

c.  It is physically possible to mitigate these impacts to a greater or lesser degree if the amount of LLW involved is relatively small and a much larger effort, i.e. dollars effectively applied, per unit waste is possible.  Neither of these conditions will obtain under the DOE's preferred alternative in the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (SSM PEIS).

d.  Routine production of LLW at LANL is now exceeded by non-routine (one-time) waste sources: environmental restoration (ER) activities, decontamination and demolition (D&D), and facility renovations.  The absolute size of these non-routine wastes is expected to roughly triple in the late 1990s, assuming that aggressive waste minimization practices are effective.  Without waste minimization, the increase in non-routine radwaste volume would be much larger.

e.  Providing upgrades to the buildings that would carry out the pit production mission at LANL would account for an unknown but large fraction of this increase.  These upgrades will generate enough low-level waste to consume much, if not most, of the remaining capacity at Area G. 

f.  Once operational, pit production will create a significant fraction of the routine low- level waste generated at LANL, and may well be the largest such source. 

g.  Under the reasonable alternative of deferring pit production indefinitely, the lifetime of Area G would be extended significantly and, if the conditions of c. above can be created, possibly indefinitely.
4.  In December 1991, DOE prepared a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) regarding expansion of Area G (EA-90-004L).  In early 1993, the Study Group obtained an internal draft of a subsequent third revision of this EA (tentative enumeration DOE/EA-0866, revised December 1992).  This EA was never completed.  On October 21, 1993, I compiled what could be documented about this issue in summary form for distribution to the public, with recommendations (Attachment 1).  Please refer to that summary for important background information regarding Area G, including a sketch of its history and of its known environmental impact. 

5.  Shortly after Attachment 1 was written, an in-house group at LANL ("Our Common Ground") issued a thoughtful report (Attachment 2) with recommendations that harmonized with mine.  Among the observations in that report was the estimate that, without improved waste minimization and disposal practices, the disposal capacity within the existing Area G would be exhausted in 18 months to 5 years from the date of the report, i.e. in the 1995 to 1998 time frame (pages 7 and 13), the exact date depending primarily upon the unpredictable generation of non-routine waste. 

6.  In fact, waste minimization activities were increased subsequent to the high public visibility which Area G enjoyed in 1993.  Disposal densities achieved at Area G were increased as well.  New pits were made much deeper.  A supercompactor was acquired and is now used for some waste.  Some kinds of non-LLW waste formerly disposed at Area G are now disposed off-site.  As a result of these improved practices, the lifetime of Area G has been very significantly extended. 

7.  Any expansion of Area G would destroy several ancient Pueblo Indian ("Anasazi") archeological sites, the exact number depending on the scope of the expansion.  In 1991, the next 37 acres of proposed expansion area were found to contain eight such sites, all eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion "d" because of their potential contribution to "understanding of community structure, land use, subsistence change, and aggregation during...A.D. 1200-1300" (Attachment 3, p. 13; see also Figure 5, a map showing nine ruins, in Attachment 2).  These sites collectively include dozens of rooms and as well as two or possibly more rock-cut kivas (underground ceremonial structures).  Expansion of the radioactive waste disposal area would destroy these ruins; the mitigation proposed by LANL was (and still is) complete destructive excavation of the ruins, which would in effect convert the actual ruins to archeological reports (Ibid, same page).  This destruction is called impact "mitigation" by LANL in its reports and "evaluation" by the DOE in its SSM PEIS (p. 4-291):  "The seven eligible properties will be adversely affected by the proposed project.  A determination of "No Adverse Effect" contingent upon mitigation through site excavation is requested of the State Historic Preservation Officer" (Attachment 3, abstract).  The entire Area G vicinity is densely covered with Native American ancestral sites, and the disposal site is just one mile from Tshirege, the largest Anasazi pueblo ruin in the entire region.  Area G directly abuts a congressionally-protected Sacred Area of San Ildefonso Pueblo.  In the past, nearby land, similar to and in no way more scenic or culturally significant than that which surrounds Area G, has been ceded from LANL to Bandelier National Monument, which abuts LANL on the south and east, by virtue of its outstanding scenic, archeological, and cultural value. 

8.  The remaining constructed capacity of Area G is approximately 24,000 cubic meters.  (One cubic meter equals 1.308 cubic yards.)  The DOE and LANL have limited options for increasing the constructed capacity at Area G without expansion of the site's footprint on Mesita del Buey or elsewhere.  These options involve the utilization of land heretofore rejected for waste disposal within Area G because it is less geomorphically stable, closer to cliff edges and the Area G boundary, or otherwise less suitable.  The most practical of the options being considered are a) loosening current disposal standards to allow the construction of new pits closer than 50 feet to the edge of the mesa and b) constructing a dam in the shallow canyon that drains southward from the eastern portion of Area G and filling this canyon with radioactive waste.  Both of these options are more expensive than current disposal practices.  If these options are rejected, DOE will be forced either to ship LLW off-site long distances through populated areas at great expense, or expand Area G to the west (the simplest, cheapest, and DOE's preferred solution).  The exercise of any of these options will increase the environmental impacts of low-level radioactive waste management at LANL over their current level.  All other factors being equal, the degree of increased impact will depend on the choice of new disposal option(s), the rapidity with which those options must be implemented, and the subsequent rate of waste generation and disposal.  (If waste streams can be greatly decreased further options exist--see paragraph 22 below--but these options are not physically or economically realistic under current mission assumptions.)

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