New Mexico Nuclear Nightmare SPECIAL:  DOE wants Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)
to get a new “ventilation” shaft – but activists point to long range plans by DOE

to expand the site to take 50+ TONS of plutonium – enough to make over 15,000 bombs
Hearings start May 17; details on how to join below.

This Week’s Featured Interviews:

New Mexico Nuclear Nightmares – this one dealing with hearings that hide the planned expansion of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to hold more than 50 TONS of “excess” plutonium – the most deadly radioactive substance on earth.  And all that plutonium will have to be trucked and trained across the United States, meaning communities at distance from WIPP will still be at risk.

Two interviews with genuine experts on what we face – and what we can do about it.   

  • Don Hancock is the director of the Nuclear Waste Safety program and administrator at Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque, where he has worked since 1975.  He is the #1 watchdog on WIPP.
  • Joni Arends is co-founder and executive director of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. She and her group have been monitoring and fighting against WIPP for more than 20 years. Here, she gives more of a citizen-activist perspective and provides concrete steps that any of us can take to help support the fight against WIPP’s expansion.

LINKS and CONTACT INFORMATION mentioned during the interviews:

Public Comments:

  • WRITTEN OR VIDEO PUBLIC COMMENTS – Email to: [email protected]
    Please enter “HWB21-02 WIPP SHAFT” in the email subject heading.

VIRTUAL PUBLIC HEARING

The virtual public hearing will begin Monday, May 17, 2021 at 12:00 PM MDT. The Hearing will run during the following hours, on this day and on subsequent days, until complete, unless otherwise ordered by the Hearing Officer: 12:00 – 4:00 PM and 6:00 – 9:00 PM MDT DAILY.

Join Virtual Public Hearing on Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/91728945523?pwd=YitrSUtFYnZkcE5hVGFrb2Z1UDlUdz09

  • Meeting ID: 917 2894 5523
  • Passcode: 050223

According to DOE:  “The public hearing will provide interested persons a reasonable opportunity to present data, views, and arguments, as well as to examine witnesses. The hearing will also afford an opportunity for all persons to present comments. The public hearing will be conducted remotely using an internet video conferencing platform (Zoom) and telephone.”

Exclusive Training with Facebook Expert Richard Villasana on How to Use Facebook to Make Anti-Nuclear Posts Go Viral:

Let’s get smarter about our time on Facebook to make our posts get picked up by Facebook Algorithms.  This is the first of a once-monthly training on how to use social media more effectively to get our message across. 


Libbe HaLevy

00:00:01

New Mexico’s position as the nation’s de facto nuclear sacrifice zone seems to be on a fast track to forever. Now, the department of energy is simply saying that all they want to do is put up a new so-called ventilation shaft at that states waste isolation, pilot plant, or whip three hours south of both Albuquerque and Santa Fe. But there is much, much more to this story, as you will learn when a genuine expert explains

Don Hancock

00:00:34

The department of energy wants to piecemeal expand whip, and the reason they want to do it by piecemeal, if they started saying to everybody, we want to keep weapons with them for at least 60 more years, but a lot more waste in than we agreed to in the law allows different forms of waste, more highly concentrated plutonium from naked or weapons and high-level waste. And those sorts of things, they know if they actually came out and said, this is what they want to do. Almost nobody in New Mexico would support that.

Libbe HaLevy

00:01:03

And in polls taken almost no one in New Mexico has, but if in the process of giving New Mexico a new whip shaft, the DOE is also giving New Mexico more than just a shaft. You can see how it’s another move to strap the public into that terrible in escapable seat that we all share

Announcer

00:01:27

Clear hot seat. What are those people thinking? Nuclear hot seat. What have those boys been breaking their hot seat? The Ms. Sinking our time to act is shrinking, but Hotsy, it’s the bomb.

Libbe HaLevy

00:01:59

Welcome to nuclear hot seat, the weekly international news magazine, keeping you up to date on all things nuclear from a different perspective. My name is Leiby Halevi. I am the producer and host as well as they survivor of the nuclear accident at three mile island from just one mile away. So I know what can happen when those nuclear so-called experts get it wrong. This week, a special report on the latest New Mexico nuclear nightmare. The department of energy’s illegal expansion plans for the waste isolation, pilot plant, or whip. The nation’s only licensed repository for low and mid-level nuclear race with the intention of turning it into a storage site for more than 50 tons of plutonium, the very definition of high level radioactive waste. We’ll hear from Don Hancock of Southwest research and information center, a whip watchdog with more than four decades of experience covering the site, Don D codes, what DOE is really doing, and it’s not what they’re claiming then Joanie errands co-founder and executive director of concerned citizens for nuclear safety provides the citizen activist perspective and gives us information on how any one of us can help in the fight to stop this whip expansion from happening.

Libbe HaLevy

00:03:27

If there’s time, we’ll have a bit of nuclear news from around the world numnuts of the week for outstanding nuclear bone headedness, and is always more honest, nuclear information. Then representative Liz Cheney is now in a position to bring up to Congress. All of it coming up in just a few moments today is Tuesday, May 11th, 2021. And here is this week’s nuclear, New Mexico whip expansion special from a different perspective. The waste isolation pilot plant or whip is the nation’s only licensed repository for low and mid-level plutonium contaminated nuclear waste. It’s located in New Mexico, about 300 miles south of either Albuquerque or Santa Fe. The department of energy is holding hearings starting on may 17 on what they are calling just the building of a new ventilation shaft for the underground facility. But watchdogs and activists have pegged this as the first step in an illegal expansion of the facility with the intent to take in more than 50 tons of plutonium. Our first interview is with Don Hancock. He is director of the nuclear waste safety program and administrator at Southwest research and information center in Albuquerque here, he gives a rundown of what DOE is planning, what it represents and manipulations around it to silence public input. We spoke on Saturday, May 8th, 2021, Don Hancock. It’s so great to have you here with us today on nuclear hot seat.

Don Hancock

00:05:05

Thank you. Good to be with you.

Libbe HaLevy

00:05:07

You’ve been watchdog for the waste isolation, pilot plant or whip for how many years now,

Don Hancock

00:05:13

More than 45 actually way too long, but nuclear waste is forever as my mother used to say,

Libbe HaLevy

00:05:21

As we all say to each other all the time and to strangers standing in line next to me at trader Joe’s, what is a brief history of the site and what has been its intended use

Don Hancock

00:05:33

After the atomic energy commission in the early 1970s was forced to abandon their proposed first nuclear waste disposal site near Lyons, Kansas, a few political economic leaders in Southeastern New Mexico, invited AEC to come to New Mexico, to do the world’s first naked or waste repository, or the least in the United States. That was 1972. And so since that time, almost 50 years now, the federal government and its various agencies and some of the local leaders in Southeastern New Mexico have seen New Mexico as the prime spot dumping ground. If you will, for some amount of waste now, exactly what it’s for has varied over time. But for the last 40 years, it’s been clear by law and by agreements with the state of New Mexico, it was defense transuranic waste, plutonium contaminated waste, explicitly prohibited was any commercial waste in a high-level waste, any spent fuel. So whip would be the first waste isolation pilot plant pilot plant means the first but not the sole.

Don Hancock

00:06:51

So one of the disputes has been for many years and it’s heating up now, again is there is no other disposal site, Yucca mountain is not going to happen and should not happen. So whip is the only operating repository. It’s the only one that there’s any concrete plans for or by administration or Congress essentially forever, which means New Mexico would be the on my side, except the people of New Mexico are saying, no, that’s not the deal. And we expect over time, more and more of the New Mexico political leaders to say the same thing, whip cannot be the only one. So what’s important about what’s happening now is what’s happening in the next couple of years are really kind of going to be the red lines in terms of whether there are some limits set. So that administrations and Congress has to say, oh, well, we’ve got to do something else, either an additional repository or long-term storage at existing sites to handle the waste that we have in this country. And more that’s being proposed to be created both by new nuclear weapons and by continuing operations of commercial power plants.

Libbe HaLevy

00:08:06

What are some of the problems that whip has experienced through the years, especially those that have impacted its ability to operate at full power. Shall we say

Don Hancock

00:08:18

Several, a fundamental flaw with the site, which is important for people to understand it was cited with in the seventies with the idea it was not surrounded by and under lane buys substantial oil and gas reserves. One of the people who are involved in the initial sighting 40 years ago started ruing. The fact that he had ever agreed because as more investigation was done in the seventies and eighties, and now in the last 20 years as the Permian basin, which this area is part of is the nations. And one of the world’s leading oil and gas production areas. You have literally 500 operating oil and gas Wells within two and a half miles of the website. And they would be drilling throughout the website we’re at not currently prohibited from doing so, but in other words, long-term, this is not the kind of place you would be wanting to put naked or waste.

Don Hancock

00:09:18

So that’s the first problem. Second problem is that repositories are harder to operate than anybody thought. Going back to the fifties, when the national academy of sciences said geologic repository is the way to go. The thought has been, there should be many places that would be geologically stable to handle the waste, but you know, neither WIP nor other long-term facilities and other parts of the world have been able to operate safely for very long because of operational errors. Some of those are technical problems. Some of those are management problems. The department of energy doesn’t have a good record of managing naked or waste at whip or frankly at any of its facilities. And some of them are related to contractor and competency, frankly, at any department of energy facility, 10% or less of the employees are federal employees. 90% plus are contractors who are in the business of making profits, which doesn’t mean they want to have unsafe facilities.

Don Hancock

01:10:24

That it means they’ll cut corners thinking it’s going to be good enough. So in the case of whip, 95% of the people who work at WIP are private contractors working for for-profit companies. So all of those things create problems and further because of the issue we’ve already talked about, whip is the only place. So DOE has constantly thinking, okay, how do we expand this facility to take care of more ways than what it’s supposed to handle? So they never have their eye on the ball in terms of operating this facility safely. They’re always thinking about how do we cut corners? How do we get around? What do we do to come up with a new operations? They were in a hurry to open whip. So they dug the first salt rooms to dispose of waste. In the 1980s, they were going to open whip in 1988.

Don Hancock

01:11:13

Well, because of disputes with the state and the citizens and Congress whip didn’t open until 11 years later. So the first panel is they’re called the areas of the underground with seven rooms. The area that they first started putting waste in, I started having ceilings collapsed before they were able to put all the waste in. So they had to abandon that panel one on my, about a little more than half full from the beginning. So we’re clear back in the early two thousands, it’s been known that whip, wasn’t going to have enough space for the waste it was designed to handle. And that’s been compounded over the years with them shipping empty drums, but they call dunnage not actually prioritizing managing the space carefully, then came 2014 where two serious accidents happened. And again, in the first 15 years of operations, so a facility that’s supposed to be safe for 10,000 years or more couldn’t operate safely for 15 years, there was first a fire in the underground fires in mines or dangerous hazardous, or to be avoided nine days later on Valentine’s day of 2014, there was a radiation release.

Don Hancock

01:12:29

One or more drums literally exploded, contaminating a significant part of the underground more than 8,000 linear feet, 2,150 feet vertical elevation and the exhaust shaft and putting radioactivity out in the environment, contaminating 22 workers who were on the surface at the time, this accident would have been much worse. Had it not been proceeded by this fire, the fire had shut down the facility. So there wasn’t anybody underground when they radiation explosion happened, or there would have been a lot more people affected. So since that time, since 2014 whip has never been able to operate at the levels, it was supposed to operate in terms of the numbers of shipments coming, et cetera, because you have contamination. The facility was not designed to operate in a radiation release scenario. In other words, HEPA filters, the way you filter radioactive contaminants, the web filters were designed originally to only handle about 15% of the air flow in that filtration mode.

Don Hancock

01:13:35

Because again, they thought there would never be a radiation release, so they didn’t have to actually design a facility so that it could operate in that radiation release. So they’ve only been able to operate at 15 to 25% of the normal air flow in the underground for the last seven plus years. And so therefore that has slowed down the amount of waste. They can bring the amount they can put underground because of the workers in the underground who were originally up until 2014, just like you and I, regular civilian uniforms now, and the underground working with waste, you have to have full protective gear like I boa or emergency workers in hospitals. They have to have full equipment. Well, it’s hard to handle naked or waste and that kind of an environment. And to do it, you have to operate more slowly, more carefully. So you have a facility that’s never operated really, as it was supposed to. And for the last seven years, it has either operated, not at all or at a very reduced rate.

Libbe HaLevy

01:14:39

That is the current situation and the current push that you are up against now.

Don Hancock

01:14:45

So the current push, which has been going on for a while are a piecemeal. The department of energy wants to piece mail, expand whip, and the reason they want to do it by piecemeal, if they started saying to everybody, we want to keep weapons them for at least 60 more years, but a lot more waste in than we agreed to. And the law allows different forms of waste, more highly concentrated plutonium from naked or weapons and high level waste. And those sorts of things. They know if they actually came out and said, this is what they want to do. Almost nobody in New Mexico would support that. And that’s not what Congress has said that the law is. That’s not what the permit that state issues allows. That’s not what a legal agreement called the consultation and cooperation agreement, train New Mexico, and the states say, so instead they’re doing these interim kinds of things.

Don Hancock

01:15:34

So the current thing is to say, four shafts were enough for this facility designed to operate for 25 years to handle 6.2 million cubic feet of plutonium waste. But now we may need a fifth shaft. The specific thing that is coming to an, a public hearing starting on May 17th before the New Mexico environment department is a proposal to add a fifth shaft to the facility west of the existing facilities, the underground facilities, they say, all this is for is for additional ventilation, which will make it safer for the workers. Well, in fact, the ventilation has always been enough for the workers until the radiation release because of the filtration problem. The new shaft is not filtered. So it doesn’t address at all the need for filtered air. Instead three years ago, the state at dos request permitted them to build a new filtered building on the surface of whip.

Don Hancock

01:16:37

So they could handle 540,000 cubic feet per minute of air more than what they need. So they could keep operating the contaminated facility because the contamination would be filtered by the safer filters. All of that can be done without a shift. What’s the purpose of the new chef, the unstated purpose in this permitting process, which is why we and other people are saying, they’re not telling the truth. They’re misrepresenting. What they actually want to do this new shaft is to the west where they want to put in a lot of new disposal panels. Remember I’ve said from the beginning for 20 years, it’s been known. They haven’t filled up all of the space. They have both because of incompetence because of ceiling collapse. And now because of the radiation release, which means they can’t use some of the rooms at all that are been contaminated. So they want to expand the facility, physically expand the facility, but they don’t want to say in this proceeding, but that’s what they’re doing. One of the big disputes in this proceeding is what is the truth? What is the purpose of this new chef? Why is it needed? It’s not native for ventilation. It is needed to physically expand the facility. This brings

Libbe HaLevy

01:17:49

Up the hearings that are going to take place that are currently scheduled to take place on May 17th. What do these hearings consist of? Who’s behind them and what are they trying to achieve?

Don Hancock

01:18:01

The burden of proof as the law is, is the department of energy has submitted a modification to change the existing permit that doesn’t have the fifth shaft to add the fifth shaft to the permit. That’s what they’re asking for. And the department of energy is saying, that’s the only thing that should be considered this new shaft. That’s the only thing that should be considered my organization and others for the last three and a half years, that there have been discussions about this facility. I’ve said, no, you got to tell the truth about what it’s for. Since you haven’t told the truth about what it’s for, which is to expand the underground capacity and build new rooms, et cetera, you can’t get this permit modification. The state should deny because under the regulations, the entity has to submit a true and accurate modification requests and they have to state what the need for what they’re asking for is in this case, they’ve said the need is ventilation not true.

Don Hancock

01:19:03

And when we and others have said, no, the real purpose is to build new rooms, to have a new chef. So it can be located by where you want to build new rooms. They say, no, we can’t talk about that. You can’t talk about that. That shouldn’t be part of this hearing. The hearing starts on May 17th, we’ll include technical testimony, expert witness testimony from three people who are contractors for the department of energy. Again, no department of energy person, employee is testifying, but three contractors for the company, Nikita raised partners that operates the facility. Three people from the state environment, department and hazardous waste bureau. So those people are all supporting, changing the permit and adding the shaft. There are people who are testifying against it, and those people are myself. Don Hancock, Steve Zappi who for about 15 years was the whip permit writer for the state who is now retired, who is strongly opposes this new shaft modification and two scientists who were with for many years, environmental evaluation group, the state independent oversight group for whip, Georgia asked us and jams Chanel.

Don Hancock

02:20:24

So all 10 witnesses have to present sworn testimony, kind of like a courtroom. They are subject to cross examination by other people. And there are other groups who are opposing the permit that haven’t put witnesses on, but can cross examine those include concerned citizens for naked or safety naked, or watching New Mexico citizen action, New Mexico, Mr. Zappi, who I mentioned on another private citizen, Debra Reed. And then Mr. N asked us who I mentioned, who is also doing testimony. So all of these parties, this will be a court like proceeding presided over by an administrative law judge who will hear the testimony. The public can also comment during this hearing. There will be times that people who want to say something about it will be able to comment. So this hearing will go on three or four or five days after which time there are a series of other legal things that have to happen before the person, the hearing officer who’s conducting this hearing will issue a recommended decision sometime in the fall. And ultimately the secretary of the environment department of New Mexico will make a decision to approve or not. This request.

Libbe HaLevy

02:21:39

One of the things I’ve learned about this is something called a motion in lemonade, which is a legal ruling. What is that? And how has it being different

Don Hancock

02:21:49

Attorneys bore the hazardous waste bureau of the environment department filed this motion and eliminated saying too many people are, want to talk about expanding whip. And you, Mr. Hearing officer should prohibit them from talking about that because this modification is just about the new shaft. It’s not about expanding whip. That was the motion. Of course, the parties that I mentioned that are opposing the modification, all objected to that and said, that’s wrong. It’s illegal. It’s improper. There’s already a lot of evidence about expansion that’s in the record. In this case, prior to the hearing, the documents that lead up to the hearing, the hearing officer ultimately said he was granting in part and denying in part this motion in lemony, it’s not totally clear. And one of the things that will be at issue in the hearing is we expect that there will be further requests to limit some of the testimony.

Don Hancock

02:22:53

For example, in my testimony, I talk about the shaft and why it’s not needed and how they’ve misrepresented it. But I also talk about what his real purpose is, is the expansion. So clearly, presumably there will be some objections to that part of my testimony, if not all of my testimony. So this will be a continuing issue. The hearing officer has made a ruling. The ruling is frankly, a little fuzzy in terms of what it means. Does it mean you can’t say the word expansion, but you could say, you know, increasing, it’s one of these things that could make the hearing very messy in terms of why you use the wrong word or somebody else use the right word. So we’ll see how it plays out. But yes, unfortunately the hazardous waste bureau is part of the environment department is in essence, trying to say certain things shouldn’t discussed at this hearing, whereas their legal responsibilities should be to hear all the relevant evidence and testimony and public comment.

Libbe HaLevy

02:23:54

So in essence, it’s a gag order.

Don Hancock

02:23:57

It could be a gag order, as I say, I don’t intend to be gagged. So we’ll see. And the written testimony that I have submitted clearly talks about all these issues that we’ve talked about, including the expansion, including the misrepresentation, including that they haven’t correctly stated the need, including what the real need is. So we’ll see when I testify, whenever that is sometime, probably May 18th or 19th, we’ll see kind of how that plays out and we’ll see how it plays out with some of the other witnesses.

Libbe HaLevy

02:24:29

I understand that governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has the power to either delay or call off these hearings. Where does she stand on the issue of what’s happening at whip?

Don Hancock

02:24:41

Well, she hasn’t stated a public position or necessarily, is there any reasons she would need to her appointee, secretary James Kenney, the secretary of the environment department who ultimately makes the decision. As I mentioned earlier, sometime presumably in the fall is appointed by the governor, but he has his own authorities. So normally how these permitting processes work, it is on the federal level, the environmental protection agency and in the state, the state environment department that makes the decision. So just as it would be improper for the president of the United States to intervene in particular permitting proceedings of the U S environmental protection agency, I would argue it would be inappropriate for the governor to not let a legal proceeding happen. She does have, and her, her real responsibilities relate to whether she is going to enforce the agreement that previous governors have entered into with the department of energy to limit the timeframe, the amount, the types of ways that can come to whip.

Don Hancock

02:25:53

She can do that separately, regardless of what’s happening with this permitting process, she has other authorities and other means that she’s doing so I’m not asking her the governor to intervene in this proceeding. At this point, we should go through the process and see if it’s done correctly. If ultimately the evidence is heard, people are heard and a legal decision is implemented. We and others would like the governor to start saying the deal is whip is not the only repository I as governor of the state of New Mexico are going to do like governors of Colorado and Idaho and South Carolina have done. When the governors of Colorado said, no, you can’t keep this kind of waste that the Rocky flats plant in Colorado forever. And it got shipped to Idaho and the governors of Idaho said, no, you can’t keep it in Idaho forever. You got to get rid of it. And some of that goes to New Mexico and governors in South Carolina said, no, you can’t keep all this plutonium waste in our state. It’s got to go someplace else. Well, how come other states have the right to say no at New Mexico, which under both federal law and legal agreements, how come New Mexico doesn’t have the same rights? So we think the governor needs to play a clear role and discussing this issue, frankly, with the public, but also with members of Congress and with the administration.

Libbe HaLevy

02:27:23

How is this issue being perceived or being reacted to by the citizens of New Mexico? And also how is it being received and represented by the media?

Don Hancock

02:27:36

The citizens of the state have overwhelmingly opposed. They’ve had two opportunities to express their positions. One in 2019 when the department of energy submitted the modification and one in the summer of 2020, when the environment department put out this draft permit saying they wanted to permit the shaft. Each of those times, the hundreds of people who commented 97% in both cases in 2019 and 2020 said, no, they opposed the chef. They opposed the expansion. They oppose the process that’s being used, et cetera. So they’ll have another chance during this hearing, there will be another chance for people to submit written or oral comments. So we’ll see how it goes. But up to now, the citizens of the state have said over 97% is pretty overwhelming. Under any circumstances people have overwhelmingly said no to this, the media, I would say here, as in other places are mostly focused on things like COVID and things like the economy and other kinds of things.

Don Hancock

02:28:46

So there has not been as much attention on this as I and other people would like. We’re hoping that the fact of the hearing, we all kind of focus a media attention on, oh, well, we should start paying attention to this has been dragging on for a while. So, but now, now we’re coming to an important thing. And assuming a lot of people are going to participate in the hearing. Hopefully the media will pay more attention. And as I say hi, if they just look at what people have said and do say, and look at the facts of the case, I think it’ll be pretty obvious that people oppose it and the state should not say no, but that remains to be seen

Libbe HaLevy

02:29:27

The listeners of nuclear hot seat. What can we do to support the position of you and Southwest research and information center and the other groups that want to have a voice, a bigger voice and unimpeded voice in these proceedings and in the future of what’s going to happen to them.

Don Hancock

02:29:47

So I should be clear these hearings that we’re talking about starting on May 17th are virtual, which means that anybody who has access to the internet can participate. There will be opportunities. We’re still trying to work out to get it worked out exactly what the schedule for the public comment times will be. But there will be possible each day at the hearings for people on the internet, whether they’re in New Mexico or other places to have probably only two or three minutes, but have some public comment to say what they think and what happens. The New Mexico is important to me, even though I’m in some other place. And I don’t think this is the right way to do things. Oral comments May 17th, 18th, 19th. That’s one thing you can submit written comments, either online or through the mail to the environment department on it. So that’s another thing people can do.

Don Hancock

03:30:44

Obviously, if you want to support individual groups, mine and others that I mentioned that are participating any kind of moral and or financial support is certainly welcome. And people can do that as well. People in their own states can start thinking about, well, if the waste from all over the country is going to come to new, Mexico is some of it that’s going to come through my state. People may want to pay some attention to and talk to their own state officials and governors about, you know, Hey, is this a good idea to be shipping waste around the country? Some of the ways that DOE wants to submit would end up being transported two or three different times and from west to east. And for me, it’s the west. And again, it’s not a rational kind of process. The national academy of sciences last year told the department of energy that they should be having.

Don Hancock

03:31:39

What’s called a programmatic environmental impact statement. In other words, that formal process. So people all over the country should be able to participate and discuss. What’s going to happen with all of this waste. The department of energy has not responded to that recommendation from the national academy of sciences, which means they have ignored it and are denying it. But again, that’s the kind of thing people can say. We should have a voice in this. The people of New Mexico should have a voice, but people around the country that are going to be affected by what happens with naked or waste over the next 50 or 60 years, should have a chance to participate in this process as well.

Libbe HaLevy

03:32:17

Anything further you’d like to add at this time that we haven’t had a chance to get to.

Don Hancock

03:32:22

I appreciate it very much your interest in all of this and your willingness to cover it. Thank you very much for what you’re doing and thank you to your audience and people who respond to the information we’ve been discussing today,

Libbe HaLevy

03:32:37

Don Hancock and Southwest research and information. Thank you so much for being my guest this week on nuclear hot seat. Thank you very much. That was Don Hancock director of the nuclear waste safety program at Southwest research and information center in Albuquerque. We’ll have a link up to his website on our website, nuclear hot seat.com under this episode, number five 16, we’ll have this week’s second featured interview on the New Mexico nuclear nightmare in just a moment. But first the problems of the nuclear fuel cycle are endless and will never go away. And as today’s story shows every day, there are nuclear decisions being made without public comment that determined not just our immediate future, but forever the nuclear industry and its allies in government are continuing to hide or confuse the industry’s many transgressions against people and the environment. And that is why you need nuclear hot seat.

Libbe HaLevy

03:33:41

We don’t get distracted. We look at the nuclear aspect of our world every week in depth with continuity and context in a way that mainstream media does not provide nuclear hotseat is the only program you can count on to report the ongoing, evolving nuclear truth that the nuclear industry would rather we not hear about, let alone understand if having this information helps you. The time would be right now to support us with a donation. We make it easy. Just go to nuclear hotsy.com and click on the big red donate button to help us with a donation of any size that same red button is now where you can set up a monthly $5 donation. Now that’s the same as a cup of coffee at a nice tip here in the U S so why don’t you buy nuclear hot seat, a metaphoric cup of coffee.

Libbe HaLevy

03:34:36

I promise you it will not go towards caffeine, but it will go for social media reach and planning. Please do what you can now and know that however much you can help. I’m deeply grateful that you’re listening and that you care. Here’s this week’s second featured interview. Joanie errands is co-founder and executive director of concerned citizens for nuclear safety. She and her group have been monitoring and fighting against whip for more than 20 years here, she provides more of a citizen activist perspective and provides concrete steps that any of us can and should immediately take to help support the fight against whip’s expansion. We spoke on Saturday, May 8th, 2021.

Libbe HaLevy

03:35:27

It’s great to be talking with you on nuclear hot seat.

Joni Arends

03:35:31

It’s great to be talking with you again. Maybe thank you for this opportunity.

Libbe HaLevy

03:35:37

Start out with some background, the group that you head up, what is concerned citizens for nuclear safety and how long has it been around

Joni Arends

03:35:46

Concerned citizens for nuclear safety or CC? N S has been around since 1988. I was an original co-founder of the organization here in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Libbe HaLevy

03:35:59

And how has the group focused itself? What have you been doing?

Joni Arends

03:36:03

We form because of community concerns about the proposed transportation of radioactive and hazardous materials from Los Alamos national laboratory, or Lanel through the center of Santa Fe on St. Francis drive to the then proposed waste isolation plant or whip. We were very concerned about the transportation risks originally. And as we learned more about the whip facility itself, respect to geology water, the impact to the environment, we broadened our scope from transportation to those more physical parts of the facility itself,

Libbe HaLevy

03:36:54

Your understanding of what is currently being proposed and what it looks like to you

Joni Arends

03:37:02

What’s being proposed is a doubling and more of the whips site. In 1988, when we started DOE testified that the website would operate for 25 years, they would be able to clean up all the transatlantic or plutonium contaminated waste located at it sites across the country from Savannah Riverside, Oak Ridge site, Hanford, Idaho Livermore, Sandia Pantex, Rocky flats, and then the streets uranium sites in Ohio. They told us that they would be able to do that in 25 years, and then they would close whip. Well, the 25 years is coming up in 2024, and DOE has put portions piecemeal approach on the table about what their plans are to expand the WIP site, some documents, including reports by the government accountability office, as well as the national academies of science says that they want to keep whip open till 2080, which is basically for forever. In our view, I was personally at many meetings, not only in New Mexico, but in Colorado and Idaho in Nevada about that they would close in 25 years. And now they’re proposing to keep it open forever.

Libbe HaLevy

03:38:40

There is coming up a series of hearings, and I have to put that in quotes because there’s a lot that is being strategically manipulated so that people will not be heard during those quote unquote hearings. Tell us what it looks like from your perspective. Again, you’re much more connected with the public and with the community and the citizens, as opposed to the technical side of things. What does it look like? They are trying to do with these hearings and trying to exclude from these hearings,

Joni Arends

03:39:17

The department of energy and the New Mexico environment department, specifically the hazardous waste bureau, which issues permits for facilities that handle store dispose of hazardous waste. And in this case, because the waste is contaminated with both the radioactive and hazardous materials from making nuclear weapons, the state has this regulatory hook, but the hazardous waste bureau and DOE have been in lock step to expand whip through a series of permit modifications. And that’s what this hearing is about. It’s about a modification to the permit to allow the drilling or digging of a 30 foot in diameter shaft to the underground disposal facility in the salt beds what’s happening because DOE hasn’t provided the complete picture of their plans. And that we have been saying for years, that we want to see the full scope of their permit modifications that we wanted the permit renewal process to happen last year when the 10 year permit expired.

Joni Arends

04:40:42

But it’s been administratively continued that we wanted to see this full picture, especially because we understood the pressure. We understand the pressure for the facility to close in 2024. And now we’re going forward with this permit hearing. Now the hazardous waste bureau filed a motion in lemony, which is to limit the conversation during the hearing to only what’s on the paper and the paper doesn’t include the expansion. So it’s going to be a fight because we believe that we have a right under the law to talk about the expansion and to say that this permit modification must be denied because the OEE hasn’t provided all the information that’s required under the so we’re gearing up for a five day hearing that begins next Monday on May 17th, it’s going to be virtual. It starts at noon every day, mountain time until 9:00 PM mountain time. There’ll be a break between four and 6:00 PM and we’re encouraging people to please make comments. There’s a lot of information on the CCNs [email protected] [email protected] website.

Libbe HaLevy

04:42:11

We will of course, link to all of the connections that you have given us because the ability to make comments and having massive numbers of us making those comments does have the potential to make a difference.

Joni Arends

04:42:27

Yes, I want to say why this is so very, very important expansion of whip support, expanded plutonium pit production at Los Alamos national laboratory. There’s billions of dollars on the table to expand the number of pits, which are the cores or triggers of nuclear weapons. And Lanel is doing everything in its power to expand that production at its site, sitting on the Mesa, in a wildfire zone, above the regional drinking water supply and the Rio Grande day, when they first showed up 77 years ago, they said that they would be here for a short amount of time. So the people, but they haven’t left, they haven’t packed up and left. And that model serves as a model for us on whip because the Manhattan engineering district said that they would be here for a short amount of time and they still haven’t left. And we see that same effort being put forward with the lack of information about DOE full plans for the whip

Libbe HaLevy

04:43:45

In terms of the general public, how informed are they? Has the media been following this? Have they been putting it forward? Has the story gotten out or is it either ignored or suppressed in your estimation?

Joni Arends

04:44:01

There haven’t been very many stories about whip expansion. There are more stories about landfill expansion in terms of a new power line cross the Rio Grande de from Santa Fe to the landfill facility about their plans for leasing another hundred thousand square feet of office space within a 50 mile radius. They’ve already rented that a hundred thousand square feet here in Santa Fe. They like to talk a lot about all the money that they’ve given out to the United way and other nonprofit organizations, but they are not talking about the contamination that’s in the regional drinking water aquifer, the amount of waste it’s buried on the per her retail plateau, which is about 18 million cubic feet, which is three times the amount that will fit into web. And then the emissions into the air and their plans to vent Tridium into the air here. We postponed that process, but it could always come back.

Joni Arends

04:45:07

Voices are rising about this. We’re expecting a big push for public comments this week before the hearing, and to encourage people all through the week to make comments. We’re trying to determine exactly when the public comment period will be. This is another way to suppress the public comment is that the hearing officer has not established the times when the public can connect to the zoom and watch what’s going on and then make public comments. It’s getting really late for people to be able to schedule that people can also make written public comments and submit them to the hearing clerk. That information is on our website or the stop forever whip coalition website and Facebook page

Libbe HaLevy

04:45:57

And amount of plutonium that I heard mentioned in connection with this, which is 50 tons of plutonium, 100,000 pounds of plutonium, which is enough to provide the triggers for 15,000 nuclear weapons that are far larger than that, which exploded at Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Trinity. What does this hippie Tums a plutonium refer to?

Joni Arends

04:46:24

So this is part of the piecemeal approach. DOE has released a environmental impact statement that they want to ship the quote unquote surplus plutonium at the Savannah river site and at the Pantex facility, north of Amarillo, Texas to Los Alamos for processing. Then they would ship that surplus plutonium back to Savannah river for additional processing, and then back to New Mexico, to the website for disposal, that’s a transportation risk of 3,300 miles or 3,300 miles across the country of surplus plutonium, which is in a respirable form, which means that if there’s an accident, it can get out into the environment. You know, they always say it’s safe until it’s no longer safe dimension of surplus. Plutonium is not in any of these documents that are part of this permit modification request 120,000 pounds of surplus plutonium. The taxpayers have paid for that. This is just an example of the waste, fraud and abuse that has occurred throughout the department of energy agency over the decades.

Joni Arends

04:47:47

How can you have 120,000 pounds of plutonium that you didn’t have a disposable pathway? I remember DOE secretary Harrington saying in the early 1990s, we are a wash in plutonium. And the only thing DOE can figure out is to put it in the dump. But again, we go back to the whole idea that at the same time, that the secretary of the energy department, Mr. Harrington said, we’re a Washington plutonium DOE was saying, we’re going to clean up all of these sites around the country in 25 years, we’re going to take it to web. We’re going to close in 25 years after we opened web, which was opened in 1999. So it’s scheduled to close in 2024, and DOE has plans to keep it open until 2080 or beyond. DOE made a social contract with the people of New Mexico. By saying, if you take this facility, we’re going to clean up all of the waste around the country. That’s plutonium contaminated or transuranic, and we’re going to dispose of it at whip. And we’re going to close it up in 25 years and they’re not going to do what they said that they were going to do. And the harm done by DOE not fulfilling the social contract with the people of New Mexico is a travesty.

Libbe HaLevy

04:49:22

This is of course interior rating information. So not unexpected considering the source with DOE and their history of misrepresentation. That’s a mild term of their nuclear interests given what you’re up against. And the fact that the hearings are scheduled to start in a week from the time that we’re talking, is there anything that can be done? And if so, how can the listeners of nuclear hot seat support you?

Joni Arends

04:49:54

People can write comments. They can provide oral testimony during the hearing via zoom as an alternative. They could make some videos, short videos about their neighborhood. And while they’re concerned about the transportation of 120,000 pounds of surplus plutonium across the roads in the United States, there’s some sample short videos about individuals’ community, about their neighborhoods and why they’re

Libbe HaLevy

05:50:28

Given that these hearings are supposed to take place nearly a week from one, the two of us are talking, is there any way to get them the late postpone, perhaps canceled on route to finding a sane or pathways forward for this way?

Joni Arends

05:50:50

Yes, people can contact our governor. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Her phone number is (505) 476-2200. And tell her to investigate what is going on at her hazardous waste bureau. And why are they allowing this incomplete application for a permit modification to go forward? People can also submit written oral and video comments to the record during the hearing we anticipate the hearing will be over on Friday, May 21st. So you have some time to learn about these issues and to prepare your comments for the record. Currently 97% of the people that have provided comments have opposed this whole program. So again, I want to encourage people to contact our governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham at 5 0 5 4 7 6 2 2 0 0. I think pressure on the governor at this point in time will be an effective use of time and energy to raise this issue. In the public’s mind,

Libbe HaLevy

05:52:12

We will publish all of this material on nuclear hot seat with the hope that at minimum, this can be delayed or postponed or canceled, meaning the hearings until further examination of the issues can take place. We will do everything in our power to help you, because what we’re looking at here is the future. So for now, for the present, Joanie, Aaron, thank you so much for all of your efforts. Continuing, keep us informed if anything changes and for now, thank you for being my guest this week on nuclear hot seat.

Joni Arends

05:52:51

Thank you levy so much. It’s a hard topic to talk about. We’re doing the best we can to oppose this and we need help from others. And you’re part of that effort. And we’re so grateful. Thank you

Libbe HaLevy

05:53:14

To help get the word out about what’s happening at whip. On Monday, may 10, I interviewed Facebook expert Richard via sauna who gave us an online training in how to use Facebook effectively to build our presence and make our message go viral. Richard has built his nonprofit forever homes for foster kids to 37,000 followers on a budget of virtually zero and has received training from Facebook and how to use the platform even more effectively. I posted it on the website for this episode, nuclear hot seat, number five 16. The training is targeted at what’s happening in New Mexico now, but can be used by any of us at any time. Basically at its core, Facebook only counts clicks. It does not evaluate content. It’s just a numbers game. And 100 clicks on any post makes Facebook considerate viral, and then they start boosting it across the platform.

Libbe HaLevy

05:54:12

That’s what we want. What does that mean? Every time you see a message about nuclear matters on the nuclear hotseat Facebook page or anywhere else, really click on the like button, then leave a comment. It doesn’t have to be longer profound or your life story as simple. Wow. Or I like that would be enough. Then click share. Once you share, do the same on that post that you just put out like comment and then like your own comment. And you can do the same thing for any other comments that are on that post. If we did this as few as 30 people could push a message viral, meaning Facebook will spread it around a whole lot more and more people will see it. That’s the threshold let’s make it happen. Listen to the training or just start clicking, like comment like your own comment share, and maybe comment on other people’s comments as well.

Libbe HaLevy

05:55:13

It will make a difference. This has been nuclear hot seat for Tuesday, may 11, 20, 21. If you haven’t already done. So please go to our nuclear hot seat. Facebook page, make certain that you have liked the page. Then find a post, use the like button, make a comment like your comment, and then share that’s four clicks to the good and it all counts. Now, if you want to make certain that you get nuclear hot seat every week without fail, the easiest way is to sign up, to get an email once a week, you’ll get it as soon as it posts and you can do so. By going to the website, nuclear hot seat.com. Look for the yellow opt inbox, which will ask you for a name you can put in your first name. You can put in a fake name. You can put in whatever you want there, and then put an email address.

Libbe HaLevy

05:56:05

And I promise you’re not going to get bugged, but you will get one email a week. As I said, as soon as the show posts, which will have not only the link to the show, but also information about what’s contained in the episode, keeping track of all the many nuclear stories that exist, not only here, the United States, but in other countries around the world takes the help of all of you who are listening. So if any of you have a story lead, a hot tip or a suggestion of someone to interview, send an email with that information to [email protected] And remember that if you appreciate weekly verifiable news updates about nuclear issues around the world, such as this special episode we just had on New Mexico, take a moment to go to our website, nuclear hot seat.com, click on the big red button, follow the prompts and do what you can to help knowing that anything is appreciated and will go towards getting our material.

Libbe HaLevy

05:57:06

Our information, our point of view out into the larger world. This episode of nuclear hot seat is copyright 2021 Leiby Halevi and hardest streak communications, all rights reserved, but fair use allowed. As long as proper attribution is provided. This is Leiby Halevi of hardest street communications. The heart of the art of communicating, reminding you that radioactive nuclear waste is forever and is dangerous forever. So let’s stop making any more of it right now and find out what we can do to safely get rid of the stuff. All that you have heard is your nuclear wake-up call. So don’t go back to sleep because we are all in the nuclear hot seat,

Announcer

05:57:56

Clear hot seat. What are those people thinking? Nuclear hot seat. What have those boys been breaking their hot seat? The Cari Ms. Sinking, our time to act is shrinking, but the nuclear Hotsy it’s the bomb.