Talks on handling nuclear waste in New Mexico start Monday

September 24, 2018

The New Mexico Environment Department will begin negotiations Monday on the federal government’s request to alter the way it measures low-level nuclear waste stored at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Southern New Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Energy and Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, a private contractor that manages WIPP, submitted a request early this year to make the change to its hazardous waste permit from the state. Critics say the change could lead to a 30 percent increase in the amount of new nuclear waste held at the site.

The state Environment Department issued an email Friday inviting about 20 nuclear watchdog groups and environmental advocacy organizations to a negotiation session with department officials and WIPP representatives in an effort to resolve some of their concerns about the permit.

Four organizations sent a request to the Environment Department last week asking it to slow the permit approval process. The groups say the 45-day public comment period, which ended Thursday, was too short and that parties needed more time to review the draft permit before engaging in negotiations.

Don Hancock of the Southwest Research and Information Center sent another letter to state Environment Secretary Butch Tongate on Friday seeking to delay the negotiations.

The talks will be held from 1 to 5 p.m Monday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m Tuesday and Wednesday at the Santa Fe County Fair Building, 3229 Rodeo Road.

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