Friday, January 18, 2013

NM Coalition Boosts LANL Programs

The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities held its monthly meeting today, Friday, from 9:00 to 11:00 AM, at the Ohkay Owingeh Conference Center, in Española, New Mexico. The meeting was chaired by Alice Lucero, RCLC vice-chairperson and mayor of Española. Attending were ~11 members of RCLC, as well as ~40 non-RCLC members. Mayor Lucero began the meeting by asking each attendee to introduce themself, "in order to see who are the interested parties here." The RCLC, of course, is made up entirely of members of local governments. Making up the audience were a few local anti-nuclear citizen activists, plus a majority of members of groups dependent on the support of state and federal government; e. g., LANL managers, DOE grant recipients, and NMED employees.

The meeting began, oddly, with a statement by an assistant to Juan Griego, the in-coming NNSA site manager at LANL. Mr. Griego thanked the RCLC for its support for his bid for the site manager's job, and expressed his concern for the well-being of each and every citizen of New Mexico. He continued by saying that, however, he would not be able to assume the responsibilities of the site manager's office since he had just accepted a job with the NM National Guard.

Next, RCLC Executive Director De Anza Sapien talked about the RCLC budget for 2013 and about a meeting of the Energy Communities Alliance which she recently attended, along with RCLC chair David Coss, vice-chair Alice Lucero, and RCLC member Fran Berting. Ms. sapiens emphazised that RCLC will try "to get everyone under the tent" when it comes to "supporting the stabilization of funding for LANL". She also announced that the NM State Legislature is issuing a Memorial in support of federal programs in NM. Also, she will ask the State Legislature to advise RCLC on how it may best support future federal funding for LANL.

A representative of Jemez Pueblo reported that she is encouraging more local Pueblos to become members of RCLC.

Alice Lucero said that RCLC should express strong support for all of the facility modernization programs at LANL, in view of the difficulties with funding being experienced recently. She alluded to a RCLC letter to DOE Secretary Steven Chu expressing support for planned LANL modernization programs. Included with this letter, she said, and at the behest of Joni Arends of CCNS, was a copy of a letter sent to Sec. Chu by DNFSB. However, she neglected to describe the substance of the DNFSB letter.

Joni Arends then pointed out that the DNFSB, in their recent letter, questioned the safety of the continued operation of  LANL's PF-4 plutonium facility, due to seismic hazards, and in no way could be construed as supporting new construction programs at LANL.

De Anza Sapien said that RCLC must support full funding for the clean up of legacy nuclear waste at LANL (now running at ~$188 million per year.)

LANL environmental managers Peter Maggiore and Jeff Mousseau presented the outline of a formal talk entitled "Fiscal Year 2013 Planning and Continuing the Governor's Priorities." Jeff M. pointed out that TRansUranic (TRU) waste from Area G is being transported to the WIPP site on an expedited scheduled, at the request of the Governor, and as stipulated to by NNSA, LANS and NMED in last year's Framework Agreement. He said that, within the last year, the inventory of above ground TRU waste at Area G has been reduced from 75,000 Plutonium Equivalent Curies (PECi) to 50,000 PECi. This decreases the danger of a dispersal of radioactive materials into the atmosphere in the event of a future wildfire that might pass over Area G. Therefore, at the present rate of removal, all of the above ground TRU waste might be removed within two years. However, he then went on to say that DOE and LANL plan to begin the removal of below ground nuclear waste from Area G; see LA-UR-12-26709.

Although, during his presentation, Jeff M. did not clearly describe the amount of nuclear waste currently held below ground at Area G, he told me later that this was as much as 110,750 PECi. Presumably, since below ground TRU waste must first be transported to an above ground area before it can be shipped off site to WIPP, it will be more than two years before the danger of an atmospheral dispersal of nuclear waste due to wildfire at Area G is eliminated; i.e., ~6 years, at the present rate of TRU waste removal.

[Should it be of concern to the general public that ~100,000 PECi  of nuclear waste remains vulnerable to wildfire at Area G? See my blogposts of Nov. 24, 2011, "Accidental Fall-Out from LANL" and Nov. 18, 2011, "DNFSB Criticizes LANL Risky Practices."]

De Anza Sapien pointed out that RCLC wants local young people to be able to work in the LANL clean up program and supports innovative educational efforts targeted toward this goal.

Carla Rachkowski, of Accelerate Technical Training and Job Placement described her group's efforts to improve the rate of graduation of local students working in two year certificate programs; see

Lastly, local citizens and citizen activists spoke:

  Ray Baca of the Constructions and Trades Union said that he supports the clean up and modernization programs at LANL, and that his union's apprentice program is among the best in the industry.

  Joni Arends talked about safety at PF-4 and the related seismic question, and pointed out that DNFSB considers this issue to be of the utmost importance. She also expressed concern about the above ground TRU waste remaining at Area G and about the danger that wildfire presents to this material.

  Jean Green of Taos said that since RCLC defines the most important part of its mission as support for the clean up of nuclear waste at LANL, the fact that it also supports facilities modernization programs at LANL is a clear contradiction; i.e., since such programs will lead to the production of new nuclear waste. She also claimed that LANL nuclear and chemical waste has poisoned the environment in northern NM, and has led to an elevated incidence of local cancers.

  Melissa .. of Taos asked about the $ cost of removing TRU waste from LANL.

  Scott Kovacs said that he supports the LANL clean up program.

  Thomas Gomez of NNMCAB announced that the CAB will host a forum at Buffalo Thunder resort, on Jan 30, in which the presence of cancer clusters in northern NM will be discussed.

  Holly Beaumont said that NM has the greatest income inequality of any of the 50 states, probably due to an over-dependence  on federal employment, with its over-generous compensation; i.e., since federal employees are just a small fraction of the total of NM workers. She then quoted from Samuel Johnson, 18th century essayist, Anglican, and Tory: "The consequence of poverty is dependency." She also warned about the machinations of Bechtel, the leader of the for-profit group, LANS, which manages LANL for the NNSA.

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