There’s growing frustration among New Mexico lawmakers and environmental regulators about the U.S. government’s slow pace in cleaning up contamination from decades of nuclear research and bomb-making at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The officials shared their concerns during a legislative meeting last week, saying New Mexico is taking a backseat to other states and that legal action might be their only leverage against the U.S. Energy Department as it sets priorities for the nation’s multibillion-dollar cleanup program for Cold War-era waste.
Since January, only five shipments of waste have been sent from Los Alamos to the government’s underground repository in southern New Mexico. Meanwhile, the Idaho National Laboratory is sending two to three shipments a week, or more than three times the goal environmental managers at Los Alamos have set for the coming year.
Cleanup work at Los Alamos – the birthplace of the atomic bomb – is governed by a consent decree with the state. New Mexico Environment Secretary James Kenney said his agency would not be opposed to renegotiating that agreement given the growing concerns of lawmakers, watchdog groups and environmentalists.