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A nuclear waste repository in southeastern New Mexico and the Los Alamos National Laboratory could be burying an additional type of low-level radioactive waste in the future.
The U.S. Department of Energy is eyeing Los Alamos and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant east of Carlsbad and other sites around the country for waste known as greater-than-Class C low-level radioactive waste and greater-than-Class C-like waste.
Such material consists of low-level radioactive waste generated by various activities, including electricity production by nuclear power plants, producing and using radioisotopes to diagnose and treat disease, oil and gas exploration, and other industrial uses, the DOE said.
It does not include spent nuclear fuel or high-level waste.
The Energy Department has issued a draft environmental impact statement on the possible disposal sites — WIPP, LANL, the Hanford Site in Washington state, the Idaho National Laboratory, the Nevada National Security Site and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The impact statement does not list a preferred site.
WIPP, which opened in 1999, buries defense-related radioactive waste in rooms mined from an ancient salt formation 2,150 feet below the desert floor.
The DOE plans hearings on the document in New Mexico next month: April 26 in Carlsbad, April 27 in Albuquerque and April 28 in Santa Fe.
This was one of the concerns brought up at the first meeting hosted by the New Mexico Community Foundation last week in Española.
The meeting was the first since the CRMG was dissolved earlier this month by the New Mexico Environment Department DOE Oversight Bureau.
At the public meeting, other concerns were brought up including:
• The difficulty in obtaining and exchanging information, as well as having face-to-face interaction and dialogue with employees and spokespeople from Los Alamos National Laboratory
• How and when LANL’s database consolidation and move to a cloud based system will occur and what impact this will have on both RACER and the public’s access to environmental monitoring data;
• LANL’s development of a Community Relations Plan as required by both the Hazardous Waste Permit and the 2005 Consent Order (under the 2005 Consent Order the Community Relations Plan must be completed by June 30, 2011 but participants say they are concerned because they have not yet received any notification or requests for their input regarding the plan)
• LANL’s creation of an information repository, also required under the Hazardous Waste Permit, which several participants request be located at Northern New Mexico College in order to increase community and student access, as well as consolidate information sources including RACER and the LAHDRA Project
• How money is allocated to LANL operations and nuclear weapons development, as well as how money is allocated for sustainability efforts such as renewable resources and providing clean air and water
• Environmental and health concerns, in general.
The next Community Foundation meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 12 in Española.