|SANTA FE — It could take more than 20 years and nearly $4 billion to clean up decades-old hazardous waste from nuclear weapons production in Los Alamos, according to a new report.
Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Environmental Management Office publicly released the estimate this week. It gives the clearest picture yet of the scope of the work left to remove radioactive waste and environmental contamination from the area, reported The New Mexican.
The report lists 955 potentially contaminated sites and says the lab still has 5,000 cubic meters of waste. That’s half the amount of waste present when cleanup began 25 years ago.
“This report represents the first and most comprehensive release of specific plans to complete the cleanup of legacy waste at LANL,” said Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales in a statement. He called it a “big step forward for the people in these communities who want to see a concrete commitment to making progress.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall on Wednesday urged U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to work with New Mexico on estimating the total cleanup costs to ensure there is enough funding.
The lab, the New Mexico Environment Department and the U.S. Department of Energy entered a new cleanup agreement in June. A previous agreement expired in December with several missed deadlines.
Some groups have criticized the new agreement, arguing that it is too flexible and includes language that encourages the government to pursue the cleanup only when it is most cost-effective.