Wednesday, March 24, 2010

LANL Applies for Open Burn Permit

Following past practices, LANL/DOE continues to try to exploit the economic vulnerabilities of local New Mexico communities, in order to be better able to proceed with its business as usual.

As a part of LANL’s current application to NMED for an extension of its RCRA mandated Hazardous Waste Permit, LANL is asking to be allowed to continue with its policy of Open Burning (OB) of high-explosives residues at two burn-sites located at TA-16.

The period for public comment on LANL’s application, and on NMED’s proposed rejection of LANL’s desire to engage in OB at TA-16, will end in mid-April, following a public hearing, to begin on April 5, 2010 at Santa Fe Community College.

After measurements were made of contaminant levels in soils at TA-16, as well as related modeling exercises performed, NMED decided that LANL’s OB of explosives residues had probably resulted in the release into the atmosphere of potentially hazardous concentrations of the toxic chemicals, dioxin and furan; i.e., hazards were predicted to exist for certain sensitive local fauna.

In order to counter this view, LANL launched a public relations campaign, asking members of LANL-friendly groups from the local communities to send comments to NMED, in support of LANL’s OB application. On Monday of this week, the VFW post in Los Alamos was visited and VFW members were presented with a talk entitled, “LANL Hazardous Waste Permit: National Security Impacts”.

Yesterday (2-23-10), the Española City Council heard a talk from LANL’s Dennis Hejersen entitled, “Protecting the Environment while Continuing National Security Missions”. Upon completion of this talk, the new mayor of Española, Alice Lucero, volunteered to say that the City Council would write a letter to NMED in support of LANL’s OB application. She also expanded happily upon the economic advantage that LANL’s operations bring to Española.

At this time, LANL asserts that the continuation of its OB practices at TA-16 are essential to national security, and make possible the testing of explosives for use by the USA in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the testing of certain improvised explosives which might be of interest to insurgents. A statement of these LANL claims appears online at For NMED’s point-of-view, along with related materials, see

It may be, however, that LANL’s efforts to tie its current explosives testing activities solely to recent US military activities in the Middle East, and to related threats from insurgents, is an attempt to craft a message having special appeal to local communities. In this regard, one needs to keep in mind that the controversy surrounding the OB of explosives residues at LANL is not new, but goes back at least to 1998. An exposition of LANL’s position on OB at TA-16, circa 2006, which makes no mention of any USA initiated wars in the Middle East, but refers only to high-explosives residues arising from tests related to LANL’s part of the NNSA’s Stockpile Stewardship Program, may be found in the LANL publication LA-UR-06-6913, available online at In this document, a history of the OB of explosives residues is described, dating back to 1998.

It seems to me unfortunate that LANL persists in its attempts to exploit the vulnerabilities of local communities. Fear of the toxic waste that LANL generates, emits and stores, and uncertainties about LANL’s nuclear weapons mission are both real in these communities, but are minimized by appeals to patriotism and reminders of the economic benefits brought by continued local LANL/DOE operations. This is a theme which I’ve addressed earlier in this blog; viz., “Community Survey Report for Northern New Mexico”, and “Concerns of Northern New Mexico Citizens Probed”.

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