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LA to get $32M for roads, water

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Safety first > Funds will also pay for safe transport of nuclear waste

By Tris DeRoma

Los Alamos will receive $32 million to upgrade roads and storm drainage systems in and around the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The news was announced at a press briefing from Gov. Susana Martinez in White Rock Monday. Using LANL’s current waste monitoring systems as a background near a commuter lot on NM 4, Martinez said it was the largest settlement between a state and the Department of Energy to date.
“The agreement requires the Department of Energy to pay $74 million for projects in and around Los Alamos and Carlsbad – projects that do more than put safety first,” she said at the briefing.
For Los Alamos, she said $10 million of those funds will go toward new equipment that will monitor the watershed in and around Los Alamos and another $10 million will help fund the replacement of aging waterlines and meters at the laboratory.
“And, we’re making sure that the transport of nuclear waste is done safely and securely,” she said. “Forty-six million dollars will be used to fund repairs on roads that are used to transport the waste, with $12 million for roads that are in Los Alamos, such as right here on State Road 4 and East Jemez Road.”
Three million dollars will fund an effort to increase security procedures at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) and LANL. The balance will pay for safety projects in Carlsbad and at WIPP, including $5 million for an emergency operations center.
Martinez hoped the improvements would serve to build a safer and stronger relationship between the federal facilities and the state.
“I appreciate our partnership with our federal facilities,” she said. “LANL and WIPP are key employers, and we understand that,” Martinez said. “They are a very important part of our economy. We as New Mexicans appreciate the work that they do in our state, and we appreciate that when something goes wrong, that everyone plays a role in taking responsibility for what they did that caused this incident.”  
A radiation leak from a barrel of nuclear waste from LANL caused WIPP to shut down on Feb. 14 2014. Though there were no serious injuries, 21 workers were contaminated with “low level amounts of internal contamination,” according to the report.
A later report from the U.S. Department of Energy about the incident cited numerous safety violations, including a broken waste monitor at WIPP and flaws in how the barrel was packed for shipment and storage by LANL contractors.
Martinez credited New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn with his thorough, nine-month investigation into the incident.
“When the radiation leak happened at WIPP, Flynn immediately started an investigation lasting more than nine months,” she said. “The investigation found multiple violations at LANL and at WIPP, confirming major shortfalls that contributed to these incidents, and held the federal government accountable.”
Kim Lebak, Los Alamos field manager for the National Nuclear Safety Administration, said at the briefing that much has been done already since the settlement, which was officially reached in January.
“We’ve already reached our first milestone in the settlement agreement which required us to identify the teams who would be working together on these projects,” she said, adding that further progress will be made available through LANL’s public reading rooms in Pojoaque and online at eprr.lanl.gov.
The briefing also included a demonstration of some of the monitoring equipment that will be installed in and around LANL.

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