Letters to the editor 04-13-14

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Regarding WIPP

This letter is in response to the article “Watchdog Asks for WIPP Inquiry” on April 6. The print and electronic media and “watchdog groups” have made, as is often the case, a radiation/nuclear molehill into a mountain. 

The only reasoned article that I have read or heard on WIPP appeared a few weeks ago in the Albuquerque Journal. It was entitled “Radiation Levels after WIPP Leak Negligible.” Robert Hayes, a Certified Health Physicist according to the byline, wrote it. I wish to quote one sentence from that article: “Using data posted on the website wipp.energy.gov, Mr. Hayes writes, “The largest potential dose was at the site boundary, where a maximum dose of around 3 mrem was possible if you stood by the air sampler for the full 15 hours.” 

There is natural nuclear radiation around us and inside us always; this is present in addition to any dental or medical x-rays, or medical radiation procedures we have, or whether we live near a nuclear power plant, or Los Alamos National Laboratory. The annual natural nuclear radiation dose at our elevation (about 7,000 feet) is around 550 mrem. Natural nuclear radiation sources include soil and rocks, certain building materials, cosmic rays, food, radon, and radiation sources in our bodies and plants. A 150-pound person receives about 15 mrem/y from the 40K and 14C in his/her body.

I mention our elevation because as one goes up, the air becomes thinner, which causes us to breathe harder and allows more cosmic rays to reach us, because there is less air to shield us. Speaking of elevation, when you fly at 30,000 to 40,000 feet, there are even more cosmic rays hitting you. In fact, if you fly from NYC to LAX and back, about eight hours in the air, you receive about 4 mrem. This is about what Mr. Hayes estimates that you would receive in 15 hours after the leak at the WIPP boundary. Incidentally, a full body CAT scan results in a dose of about 1,000 mrem. 

Most stories that I’ve heard on radio or read in newspapers are grossly incorrect and alarming. Certain organizations have latched onto this incident as another drum to beat against nuclear energy.

By the way, CCNS stands for Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety.

Douglas Reilly

Retired LANL physicist, retired from LANL

Los Alamos


Praising Garcia Richard

In these times of partisan politics and declining budgets it is rare to see our elected leadership come together and stand united on any issue; in fact, it is unheard of. But this is New Mexico and miracles have been documented before in this Enchanted Land.

Representative Stephanie Garcia Richard facilitated this miracle by successfully sponsoring House Memorial N. 79 calling for collaboration and coordination on a statewide level to support, maintain and increase local business procurement by federal institutions. Most people know that more business in New Mexico is good for everyone and support should be a no brainer. 

What most people do not know is that the National Nuclear Security Administration has a new procurement policy that is creating a shift from local purchasing to mandated use of national contracts negotiated by their procurement center based in Kansas City. The negative impacts for New Mexico will include lost revenues, lost gross receipts tax, a reduction in local contracting opportunities at our national labs and environmental management sites and, potentially thousands of job losses. 

Coupled with several resolutions at the local government level, House Memorial No. 79 allowed the LANL Major Subcontractor Consortium (LANL MSC) to visit the New Mexico Congressional Delegation in late February with the full support of our local and state elected leadership to begin the difficult work of generating policy change at the federal level.

The LANL-MSC owes a debt of gratitude to Representative Garcia Richard not only for her relentless efforts in getting the House Memorial passed with very little time left in the session but for her advocacy in communicating the significant importance of this policy change to her colleagues resulting in the Memorial being passed unanimously. Her leadership and tenacity in working for her region is refreshing and long-awaited and should go down in New Mexico history as a legislative miracle.

Liddie F. Martinez, President

LANL Subcontractor


Friends of the
Shelter thanks LA

Last Sunday morning our community once again showed what a caring and generous group they are. The Posse Lodge Cowboy Breakfast raised funds for our local Friends of the Shelter, and we are so grateful for their generosity to allow FOS to fundraise with them.

The workers from the Posse Lodge were helpful, cheerful and hardworking as always. Our successful breakfast is due in no small part to many FOS volunteers. Gift Baskets were donated by 13-year-old Madison Mas, of Best Buddy Baskets, and Zena Thomas for our Silent Auction. 

The ever-popular Doggy Kissing booth was organized by Peggy Sullivan. Carolyn Adams and Kersti Rock brought over our adoptable dogs — and one lucky dog found her forever home!

Sue Barns, trainer from Assistance Dogs of the West, was available for anyone to ask advice on dog issues. By far the biggest and loudest shout out must go to the Posse Lodge and all the hardworking cooks and workers, and especially to Annie who manages the logistics of the breakfast and keeps it running smoothly.

And thanks too for the FOS volunteers who spend time with each and every animal, and also willingly volunteer for fundraising to help countless animals across northern New Mexico — a truly dedicated and caring group of people. But without participants who come out to the all-you-can eat breakfast we could not be successful. Thank you Los Alamos!

Kathy Clifford

Coordinator for FOS

Los Alamos