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Heinrich, Udall request LANL cleanup funding

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Congress > Junior senator makes trip to lab

By John Severance

Martin Heinrich has made plenty of trips to Los Alamos in the past.

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But on Friday, he made his first trip to the Los Alamos National Laboratory as a U.S. senator.

“We talked about cleanup and a number of issues related to my committees,” Heinrich said in a brief phone interview Friday. We went through some budgetary issues and covered a broad spectrum of issues associated with the lab today.

“Most of the visit was presentations by staff at the lab. There was not a lot of back and forth.”

After being sworn in at the beginning of the year, Heinrich also got the following committee assignments — Energy and Natural Resources, Intelligence and Joint Economic Committee.

And he has been busy getting acclimated to his new role as senator.

“I look at this as a whole new set of opportunities to work Los Alamos,” Heinrich said. “I had a great visit today and we are continue to work hard with Los Alamos. We talked about cleanup and an number of issues related to my committees. We went through some budgetary issues as well.”

Lab Spokesman Fred DeSousa said, “We were grateful for the opportunity to reacquaint the Senator with the lab’s vital national and global security missions as well as its important roles in the economy of Northern New Mexico and to update him on our environmental cleanup efforts.”

Monday, Heinrich and Sen. Tom Udall-D, N.M. sent a letter to President Barack Obama, requesting at least $255 million for cleanup at LANL and $222 million to operate and maintain the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad.

In the letter, they write, “The completion of the cleanup of defense legacy wastes at Los Alamos is an important commitment that Congress and DOE have made to the community and the State of New Mexico, and we believe it should remain a top funding priority for DOE. To make the most efficient use of available resources, the New Mexico Environment Department and DOE agreed to focus environmental priorities on areas that pose the greatest risk, including the removal of the 3,706 cubic meters of above ­ground TRU waste from Area G by June 30, 2014.

Environmental protection also remains a high priority, including protection of water resources and monitoring of area groundwater and storm-water flows to the Buckman Direct Drinking Water Diversion on the Rio Grande. To keep the efforts on schedule and assure all obligations and deadlines are met, we urge the administration to request at least $255 million in 2014 for Los Alamos in DOE’s Defense Environmental Cleanup budget.”

Heinrich and Udall also requested funding for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. As the only active facility in the United States that disposes defense-generated transuranic waste, WIPP has received and safely disposed of over 80,000 cubic meters of defense TRU waste.

“To continue to meet DOE’s cleanup requirements, preserve a high level of safety and compliance, and to maintain vital plant equipment and infrastructure, we believe WIPP will need at least $222, million for fiscal year 2014,” continued the Senators in the letter.

After a month at his new job, Heinrich had these impressions of Washington.

“The last month has been productive,” Heinrich said. “We avoided the fiscal cliff. We passed legislation not to default and raised the debt limit. We are seeing bipartisanship in immigration reform. I hope we can continue to foster a more productive environment. I can say personally on the Senate side, it is less contentious than on the House side.”