State denies extension for Los Alamos cleanup

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The state is cracking down on Los
Alamos National Laboratory’s attempts to extend deadlines for cleaning
up toxic waste across its northern New Mexico campus.
The New
Mexico Environment Department sent the lab 22 letters this month denying
requests for more time to meet the terms of a 2005 consent order. In
refusing further delays, the state said past extensions were granted
while the lab diverted resources to expedite the shipment of thousands
of barrels of already-processed waste to the government’s underground
nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico.
But the Waste
Isolation Pilot Plant has been shuttered indefinitely by a mysterious
radiation leak, meaning Los Alamos’ plans to remove the last of those
barrels are on hold.
Because Los Alamos told the state it won’t be
able to meet the June 30 deadline for getting those barrels to the
Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the state said, it was denying the other
requests seeking more time to clean up contaminated areas, build
monitoring wells and submit reports for other cleanup of Cold War-legacy
waste, some of which is buried in unlined trenches.
groups applauded the action, saying the closure of the Waste Isolation
Pilot Plant may put other cleanup efforts back on track.
granting more than 100 extension requests to delay cleanup, we salute
the New Mexico Environment Department for denying further requests,"
said Joy Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. "We
encourage NMED to enforce what is already has, and make LANL (the Los
Alamos National Laboratory) comply with its legally mandated cleanup
Los Alamos officials did not immediately respond to a
request for comment. A spokesman for the environment department said the
letters speak for themselves.