WIPP waste rules face more scrutiny - Albuquerque Journal

WIPP waste rules face more scrutiny

The state’s environment department has determined the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s request to revise how the volume of radioactive waste it houses is determined should go through a more stringent process than it initially submitted.

The underground repository for nuclear waste near Carlsbad submitted a request to modify its permit in January for “Clarification of TRU (transuranic) Mixed Waste Disposal Volume Reporting.”

Drums of waste are arranged inside larger containers called overpacks before they are placed underground.

The volume of those overpacks is what is counted toward WIPP’s total volume, limited to 6.2 million cubic feet by the federal Land Withdrawal Act.

WIPP officials say they believe the volume of the inner containers be counted instead.

The new standards would mean the facility is one-third full; by current measure, it’s considered half full.

WIPP originally submitted a Class 2 modification to the permit to NMED.

But in a letter to the facility’s leaders sent earlier this month, NMED Secretary Butch Tongate said the request must go through a Class 3 permit modification process used for major changes to permits.

“… I have determined that it is appropriate for NMED to process the Modification as a Class 3 modification … as there is significant public concern and the complex nature of the proposed change requires the more extensive procedures of a Class 3 modification,” Tongate wrote in a June 1 letter.

WIPP spokesman Bill Taylor wrote in an email that the Department of Energy and WIPP operating and managing contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership “will continue to work with the State of New Mexico on the required processes for a Class 3 Permit Modification Request.”

That will mean additional opportunities for public comment, said Don Hancock, the Southwest Research and Information Center’s Nuclear Waste Safety program director.

Opponents and those skeptical of the proposed changes, including the Southwest Research and Information Center, had urged the NMED take a closer look at the modification request.

Hancock argues that WIPP should be focused on safely completing its original mission.

“They shouldn’t be trying to expand their mission,” Hancock said.


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

Ad Tango

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
CYFD probes child's death, reviews procedures
ABQnews Seeker
Aunt says she reported abuse of ... Aunt says she reported abuse of tot, siblings; dad, grandmother charged
2
CYFD to open bids for tech upgrade
ABQnews Seeker
Change follows departure of former Cabinet ... Change follows departure of former Cabinet secretary, who pushed for single vendor
3
Competency hearing set in school shooting
ABQnews Seeker
13-year-old will be tried as a ... 13-year-old will be tried as a juvenile if he is deemed fit
4
Advisory panel endorses redistricting maps for New Mexico
ABQnews Seeker
Lawmakers plan to convene in December ... Lawmakers plan to convene in December to redraw a range of boundaries
5
Suspect held in monthlong string of robberies
ABQnews Seeker
Bandit apologized to victims in over ... Bandit apologized to victims in over a dozen alleged heists
6
Pecos River set for major water shortages
ABQnews Seeker
Agencies propose repairing infrastructure, removing invasive ... Agencies propose repairing infrastructure, removing invasive plant species
7
Health officials prepare for rollout of COVID vaccine for ...
ABQnews Seeker
State has pre-ordered 66,000 doses over ... State has pre-ordered 66,000 doses over three waves
8
New Mexico credit union ceases overdraft fees
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico's oldest credit union will ... New Mexico's oldest credit union will no longer charge overdraft fees to members.
9
Visit Albuquerque leader: Business travel recovery could take years
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque saw its fair share of ... Albuquerque saw its fair share of leisure travelers over the summer, but business travel to the city ...