State OKs controversial WIPP volume changes - Albuquerque Journal

State OKs controversial WIPP volume changes

Workers move a container laden with packages of radioactive waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad in January 2016. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The state Environment Department approved a Waste Isolation Pilot Plant permit modification request that will ultimately allow more waste to be placed in the underground repository for nuclear waste in southeast New Mexico.

The permit request, made jointly by the U.S. Department of Energy and WIPP operating and managing contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC, was approved by New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Butch Tongate Dec. 21.

The approval comes just days before Gov. Susana Martinez leaves office.

The controversial permit modification changes the way waste volume is calculated to exclude empty space inside waste packaging.

Environment Department officials were not available for comment Saturday and they did not respond to questions emailed to an agency spokeswoman.

But those opposed to the permit changes are speaking out.

“We’re very disappointed in the decision but not surprised because this was a decision the Martinez administration was rushing through to approve,” said Don Hancock of the Southwest Research and Information Center, one of the parties that argued against the proposal during October hearings in Carlsbad.

WIPP officials have said the changes will result in WIPP being just one-third full, instead of the current calculation of about half full. Under federal and state law, the facility is only permitted to store 6.2 million cubic feet of waste.

Parties have 30 days to appeal the decision.

“We will definitely be taking it to court and expect it to be overturned,” Hancock said.

In its comments submitted on the hearing officer’s report issued after the Carlsbad hearing, Hancock’s group pointed to what it calls erroneous information included in that report and in Tongate’s subsequent approval order.

“The haste to finalize the permit modification request… is evident in the number of errors in the Secretary’s Order Approving Draft Permit,” Santa Fe-based Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety said in a news release.

The permit modification request was originally submitted in January. There has since been a 45-day public comment period, negotiations between stakeholders and a three-day public hearing in Carlsbad.

Opponents also worry this could be the first step in expanding WIPP’s mission to store other kinds of waste.

Home » News » New Mexico News » State OKs controversial WIPP volume changes


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

taboola desktop

1
Outdoor rec projects receive $2M+ in state funding
ABQnews Seeker
The New Mexico Economic Development Department's ... The New Mexico Economic Development Department's Outdoor Recreation Division handed out more than $2 million to 20 projects statewide through its Outdoor Recreation Trails+ ...
2
Rain or shine, students fight for normalcy
ABQnews Seeker
Homecoming returns after years of pandemic ... Homecoming returns after years of pandemic impacts
3
NM to be part of 'clean freight corridor'
ABQnews Seeker
Hydrogen network could power trucks throughout ... Hydrogen network could power trucks throughout Southwest
4
Judge was a 'very generous and caring person'
ABQnews Seeker
Friends and colleagues describe Judge James ... Friends and colleagues describe Judge James A. Parker as a gentleman
5
Climate-fueled wildfires worsen dangers for struggling fish
ABQnews Seeker
A summer-long mission comes to a ... A summer-long mission comes to a quick end as cutthroat trout rescued earlier this year are released into new digs
6
Stewart moves to oust Ivey-Soto from committee post
ABQnews Seeker
Sexual harassment allegations against him behind ... Sexual harassment allegations against him behind the action
7
APD arrests suspect in killing outside Calvary Church
ABQnews Seeker
Victim a security guard and former ... Victim a security guard and former Bernalillo County Fire Rescue commander
8
Electric demand to outpace capacity for New Mexico utilities
ABQnews Seeker
Blackouts feared for 2023, 2024 seasons Blackouts feared for 2023, 2024 seasons
9
New Mexico allows funds for prosecutions in 'Rust' shooting
ABQnews Seeker
DA declines to name potential targets DA declines to name potential targets