Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Board combined committee members meeting in Pojoaque April 18 discussed their proposed recommendations to the Department of Energy on the Energy Communities Alliance (ECA) report on waste disposition to the Department of Energy (DOE).
NNMCAB member Dr. Stanley Riveles confirmed Sunday that he drafted the recommendations on the ECA repost, “Waste Management: A New Approach to DOE’s Waste Management Must Be Pursued” at the request of a NNMCAB subcommittee. He said the recommendations are the product of the Board’s thinking garnered at meetings, in briefings and discussion which has been evolving since late last years.
There was no quorum at the April 18 meeting so no vote was taken on the recommendations, however, the consensus was the that NNMCAB wants to go forward with them. A vote will be taken at the group’s May meeting.
The draft document indicates NNMCAB members believe the ECA recommendations, if implemented, would bring about major changes in longstanding national policies regarding the categorization, treatment and disposition of DOE legacy radioactive waste.
Although not directly mentioned in the ECA report, it is believed that Los Alamos National Laboratory Environmental Management (EM) practices would be significantly affected.
“However, the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) gets a lot of attention. It would receive different, re-categorized and larger volumes of waste,” according to the document. “It is envisioned that WIPP would benefit from greater capital investment resulting in more jobs and greater economic development in the region.”
The document points out the larger waste and more frequent volumes of waste brought to WIPP from locations throughout the country could raise risks to both health and the environment and further burden the transportation network in New Mexico.
The draft further states that the systemic problems of the DOE/EM program identified by the ECA report are clear and compelling. The present classification of waste based on origin rather than risk goes back to the beginnings of the nuclear weapons program and are not aligned with the International Atomic Energy Agency or Nuclear Regulatory Commission standards. In principle, the document goes on, transition to a risk management approach would result in less over-classification of waste and reduce the volume of waste subject to higher levels of handling which would reduce costs at an estimated $2.5 million per day.
“While the report presents a coherent and consistent argument on behalf of a new approach, it would be difficult to determine the merits based on this policy study alone. The lack of empirical data is a significant drawback.” It adds that the “new” system for classification waste and methods for determining or calculating the conversion of existing to new classes of waste are not presented in the ECA report so a pro or con recommendation on the merits of the proposal is not possible at this time.
NNMCAB is recommending that DOE/EM undertake a comprehensive analysis of the report, including technical, financial, environmental safety, transportation and other implications of implementing its recommendations for the purpose of evaluating the impact of such changes. Evaluation of the site-specific impact of implementing the recommended changes in New Mexico, specifically at LANL and WIPP, including both potential risks and benefits.
NNMCAB is also recommending that DOE/EM provide a realistic deadline for performing the analysis and brief its results on an ongoing basis to the NNMCAB and New Mexico environmental authorities.
The next NNMCAB Bi-Monthly Board Meeting is scheduled for May 23 in Ohkay Owingeh. It is a community advisory group that was chartered in 1997 to provide citizen input to the DOE.