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SF committee mulls halt to plutonium program

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City resolution would rescind state consent agreement for waste cleanup, halt LANL’s plutonium pit program

By Tris DeRoma

The City of Santa Fe Finance Committee considered a resolution Monday night that, if implemented, could seriously impact the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s growing plutonium pit manufacturing program.

The city is looking to change an order of consent agreement between the state and the lab that governs legacy waste cleanup.

The committee is seeking to rescind the consent agreement, finalized in 2016, and halt the lab’s pit manufacturing program until safety and cleanup issues are resolved.

The resolution requests that the Department of Energy improve surface and groundwater monitoring and reconsider the plutonium pit production mission at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The resolution was presented at the city finance committee’s Monday meeting. City councilors Renee D. Villarreal and Joseph Maestas introduced the resolution. Villarreal could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

After brief consideration Monday, the resolution was postponed for a later date, according to Finance Committee Chairman Carmichael Dominguez.

“The sponsor has agreed to work with the rest of the committee to work on some language improvements,” Dominguez said.

Committee members are looking to make key changes to the resolution so as to guarantee it the most success when and if it gets to be considered by the New Mexico Environment Department, LANL, the DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The NNSA directly oversees the lab. Emails to the NNSA were not immediately returned Tuesday.

The committee may remove the word “rescind” from the agreement, Dominguez said.
“That’s a possibility, I think that the intent of the bill is really good… to ask for it to be rescinded may be too far of a reach, given how it was put together in the first place and how complicated it is,” Dominguez said.

Other goals they hope the resolution achieves is more funding for cleanup and the removal of “unrealistic promises” from the agreement, according to Dominguez.

The resolution is also looking to formalize the process of aquifer monitoring wells LANL has at various places on its properties, and its early notification system.

As for LANL’s plutonium pit manufacturing program, the resolution is asking for the DOE to stop or curtail the lab’s plutonium pit manufacturing program.

“‘The Department of Energy has determined that ‘required improvements to the
[Nuclear] Criticality Safety Program are moving at an unacceptably slow rate ...  [and] the number and latency of infractions in the plutonium facility is of concern, ’” a statement in the resolution said.

The finance committee plans to reconsider the resolution Sept. 5. If the resolution makes it out of committee, it will then go before the Santa Fe Council in mid or late September.

If the resolution passes, it will move on to the city manager Brian Snyder’s office, where he and his staff will prepare an official request that will be distributed to the lab, the NMED, NNSA and the DOE.