Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – About 60 people rallied Tuesday at the State Capitol to present Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham with over 1,000 petition signatures asking her to stop the expansion of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico.
“We strongly support our governor taking all necessary actions, including denying permits for the piecemeal expansion,” the petition reads.
Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen was joined by members of Stop Forever WIPP, 285ALL, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety and Veterans for Peace who allege that transportation of nuclear waste to the nation’s only nuclear waste repository on New Mexico highways and through 10 other states is a threat to public health.
“This transportation route is deeply concerning to me,” said Hansen. “It does not protect us here in Santa Fe County, we are going to have waste transported twice through our communities. That is a very serious thing especially not knowing how it’s packaged.”
Hansen led off by asking for a moment of silence for the people of Ukraine “who are fighting a deadly fight against a huge nuclear power.” She noted that Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons.
The Governor’s Office in an email said she has been in contact with the Department of Energy and Secretary Jennifer Granholm on this topic and has relayed the concerns New Mexicans have.
WIPP disposes of transuranic waste, the residue of the nation’s nuclear defense program. That can include protective clothing, rags, tools and soil that are mostly contaminated with plutonium. Drivers transporting waste must stop and check trucks and loads every 150 miles and the trucks can also be inspected at state ports of entry, according to the WIPP website.
WIPP should be for nuclear waste generated in New Mexico not from other states, said Hansen. Other disposal sites need to be developed, the groups said.
Ed Hughs and his wife, who own a small ranch in Quay County near Interstate 40, attended the rally. He said he was worried about the potential for accidental release of powdered plutonium waste.
Cynthia Weehler, co-chair of 285ALL, a group that represents communities along U.S. 285 – a primary route to WIPP – said the groups have requested a response from the governor on the petitions by March 15.
“New Mexico agreed to host WIPP after carefully crafting agreements that limit what the federal government can do with it,” said Weehler. “New Mexico needs to insist (the agreements) are honored.”