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December 11, 2013
Santa Fe City Council Unanimously Passed Resolution

Santa Fe City Council Unanimously Passed Resolution Requesting

Los Alamos National Laboratory to Analyze and Properly Dispose of its Nuclear Waste in TA-54, Area G

 Calls on New Mexico Environment Department to Not Allow the Creation of a Permanent Nuclear Waste Dump

The Santa Fe City Council unanimously passed Resolution 2013- 111 before a fully packed chamber sponsored by Mayor David Coss and co-sponsored by Councilor Patti Bushee and Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Wurzburger. The resolution requests consideration of alternatives to Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL) proposed plan of leaving nuclear wastes buried in place at TA-54, Area G; urging instead for full characterization and excavation of the wastes, offsite disposal of any high-level, transuranic, and mixed low level radioactive wastes, and directing the City Clerk to inform the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and relevant State Legislative Committees.

The intent of the resolution is to control and prevent the migration of these wastes into groundwater aquifers and the Rio Grande for current and future generations. Mayor David Coss and a number of City Councilors repeatedly called on other local governments to adopt similar resolutions.

Mayor David Coss, reflecting on Santa Fe’s long history, said “We need to think in terms of 400 to 500 years.”

In response to public comment on the subject, Councilor Ron Trujillo stated that, “This resolution is directly relevant to the interests of the City of Santa Fe and to its citizens.”

 LANL has publicly announced several times over the past year that its preferred alternative for the cleanup of Area G is to leave approximately one million cubic meters of radioactive and hazardous wastes and backfill buried in place at Material Disposal Area G in Technical Area-54. This alternative has been submitted to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), which must approve or not pursuant to the Consent Order issued by NMED to the Laboratory in 2005. TA-54, Area G is a 63-acre site, which started accepting radioactive and hazardous wastes in 1957 when record keeping was poor. The area is located 18 miles from the Santa Fe Plaza, just west of the residential community of White Rock, and five miles from the Buckman Well Field near the Rio Grande. The well field and river are both sources of drinking water for the City of Santa Fe.

The resolution notes that TA-54, Area G and LANL were not originally chosen for their geologic qualities as permanent nuclear waste disposal sites. The Laboratory is located in a complex seismic zone above both the Rio Grande and a sole source aquifer providing drinking water for 270,000 people, including the residents of Santa Fe. Currently, TA-54, Area G wastes are buried in unlined pits and shafts dug directly into the volcanic tuff. This is in contrast to the composite liners and leachate collection systems that the NMED requires of local governments for municipal solid waste. The resolution urges the NMED to not allow the de facto creation of a permanent nuclear waste dump by approving the “cap and cover” remediation alternative for the estimated one million cubic meters of radioactive and hazardous wastes and backfill at LANL’s TA-54, Area G. It further requests that NMED should instead require full characterization and excavation of the wastes; offsite disposal of any high-level, transuranic, and mixed low level radioactive wastes; and no new disposal of waste.

A copy of the resolution is attached.

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