Coss' LANL resolution gets mixed reaction

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Lab > Officials say they evaluated all alternatives

By The Staff

Last week, Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, in his role as chairman of the Regional Coalition of Los Alamos National Laboratory Communities, presented a draft City of Santa Fe resolution at their monthly meeting calling for LANL’s consideration of other alternatives to their proposed Technical Area 54, Area G remedial action plan, as submitted to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED).

The LANL plan leaves nuclear waste buried in pits and trenches at the laboratory’s (TA)-54, Area G.

“Full cleanup of Area G would be a win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our precious groundwater and the Rio Grande while creating hundreds of high paying jobs for 20 years or more,” Coss said.

Coss’ draft resolution has created a fair amount of reaction.

A statement from the lab said “under the Consent Order, the final remedy at Area G will be decided by the state of New Mexico after receiving input from the public. As that process continues, our sampling and monitoring to date — the results of which are all public — have shown that the buried material is safe where it is, now and for the foreseeable future.

“We remain committed to completing a remedy for Area G that meets the Consent Order’s requirements and fulfills our obligation to protect our workers, the public, and the environment.”

Lab officials say LANL goes by the Corrective Measures Evaluation — the document under the Consent Order that describes the “alternatives we studied and our evaluations of each alternative.”

According to the report, the lab evaluated everything from full excavation to capping the landfill with soil, clay, and vegetation. Pros, cons, and costs are included – as required by the Consent Order.

The document also describes the risks of excavation; including exposing the material to wind, rain, runoff, fire, etc. Workers would be exposed for a time, and so would motorists as the material is transported to some other place.

Lab officials insisted the “lab does not get to decide — under the law, NMED does — and goes through a very complex evaluation before selecting its remedy.”

The document can be accessed at: permalink.lanl.gov/object/tr?what=info:lanl-repo/eprr/ERID-206324.

Watchdog groups, meanwhile, were mixed in their opinion.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico applauded the demand by the mayor that LANL not rule out alternatives to their so-called “cleanup” plan for Area G. NWNN claims that LANL plans to “cap and cover” and permanently leave one million cubic meters of radioactive and hazardous wastes buried forever.

Scott Kovac, NukeWatch Program Director, said, “LANL should quit playing games that cap and cover somehow represents genuine cleanup.

“For the same price as five years’ worth of nuclear weapons work that caused this mess to begin with, Area G could be fully cleaned up. I echo the mayor’s words that this could be real win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting groundwater and the Rio Grande while creating hundreds of long-term high-paying jobs.

“I call on other local governments and everyone to pick up the Santa Fe Mayor’s challenge.”

Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group also weighed in.

“This resolution will have zero effect in Washington,” Mello said. “The danger is that it pretends to reconcile diametrically opposing visions for the future of Santa Fe, one that is supportive of weapons of mass destruction and threats of annihilation – a dark and nihilistic vision of secrecy, inequality, and domination – and one that is based on Eros and the protection of life. LANL just can’t be “cleaned up” while yet embracing the Bomb.”

According to a City of Santa Fe press release, Coss’ draft resolution urges LANL to execute full characterization and excavation of the wastes as well as offsite disposal of any high-level or transuranic radioactive waste and the reburial of remaining low level radioactive wastes in a modern landfill designed to control and prevent the migration of these wastes into groundwater aquifers and the Rio Grande.

“Permanent disposal of nuclear waste in unlined pits in an area above the Rio Grande and a sole source aquifer that provides drinking water for 270,000 people is not in the best interest of the future of all of our New Mexico communities,” Coss said.

The resolution notes that Area G or LANL were not originally chosen for their geologic qualities as permanent nuclear waste disposal sites.

The resolution urges the NMED to not allow the de facto creation of a permanent nuclear waste dump by approving the “cap and cover” remediation alternative for the estimated one million cubic meters of radioactive and hazardous wastes at LANL’s Area G. It further requests that NMED should instead require full characterization and excavation of the wastes; the possible safe recycling of some materials; offsite disposal of any high-level or transuranic radioactive wastes; and the reburial of remaining low-level radioactive wastes in a modern landfill with liners.

Coss will ask the City of Santa Fe Council for approval of this resolution during its Dec. 11 meeting.