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Activist groups to rally against plutonium disposal project at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant


Adrian HeddenCarlsbad Current-Argus 23 Feb 22,
A plan to dilute weapons-grade plutonium and then dispose of it at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, an underground repository for low-level nuclear waste near Carlsbad, drew concerns from around New Mexico amid fears transporting this stream of waste could risk public safety.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced in 2020 a plan that would ship the plutonium from the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas to Los Alamos National Laboratory where it would be chemically diluted.

The waste would then head to the DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina for packaging before the final shipment to WIPP in southeast New Mexico.

This would mean the 34 metric tons of the waste on the way to its final resting place at the WIPP site could pass through New Mexico three times.

Cynthia Weehler, co-chair of Santa Fe-based activist group 285 All said this creates an unacceptable risk for local communities in New Mexico and 11 states she said the waste would travel through.  

285 All advocates for issues throughout New Mexico, focusing on U.S. Highway 285 which stretches from the mountains in northern New Mexico down into the high desert and oilfields of the southeast region, crossing into West Texas.

That’s why Weehler and a consortium of groups critical of WIPP and nuclear activities in New Mexico planned to deliver a petition to New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham next week, asking the state’s highest government leader to oppose the plutonium project.

“Unless New Mexico says NO to WIPP expansion, other disposal locations will not be developed, and WIPP will always be the only dump site, which is not fair. New Mexico never agreed to bear the burden of being the only site,” read a portion of the petition.

Weehler said the petition has about 1,140 signatures as of Monday and is being distributed in the Santa Fe area and to communities along the transportation routes.

The petition will be delivered to the State Capitol at 11:30 a.m., March 1 during a press conference on the east side of the Roundhouse.  

“We don’t expect an accident to happen every week or every community, but when you increase the time and the shipments, we just see this as an inevitability over the time frame,” Weehler said. “It’s going to be a huge increase in shipments and it’s going to last almost this whole century.”

Weehler said Lujan Grisham should cite the legal agreement between the State and DOE that defines WIPP’s mission: to dispose of low-level transuranic (TRU) waste at the site near Carlsbad, streams she said were pre-determined by the agreement and should not be expanded.

If the DOE’s plutonium plan moves forward, Weehler said it would amount to an “expansion” of WIPP both in its mission and the volume of waste it would accept.

“The waste would be plutonium-contaminated material, contaminated during the production of nuclear weapons,” Weehler said. “This is something different (than TRU waste).”

WIPP officials said this was not the case…………………………….. 

The plutonium would be “down blended” meaning its level of radioactivity would be lowered so that the waste would qualify as TRU waste and could be disposed of at WIPP without adjusting federal policy.

“In order for it qualify, they’re having to dilute it. They’re having to adulterate it,” Weehler said. “This will never be acceptable. For them to say that is just unbelievable to me.” ……….. https://www.currentargus.com/story/news/local/2022/02/23/wipp-activist-groups-rally-against-plutonium-disposal-project/6878583001/

February 24, 2022 - Posted by | - plutonium, opposition to nuclear, USA

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