Occasionally There’s Some Good News in the Nuclear World

Editor’s Note: Two important press releases were issued last week on March 21: the first with regard to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s 2015 budget for nuclear weapons and the second regarding the radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

National Nuclear Security Administration 2015 Budget Proposal

The proposed 2015 budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the agency within the Department of Energy (DOE) that administers this country’s nuclear facilities, does not contain funding for the construction of additional facilities to make plutonium “pits”, or the cores of nuclear warheads. This means that neither the controversial Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) nor the smaller, “modular” replacement plan for the CMRR, will be built anytime soon at LANL. The budget also postpones the target date for increased pit production capacity (up to 30 pits per year) for five years, from 2021 to 2026. The production of several warheads, requiring pit production, has also been delayed. You can find more information about the proposed budget at the Los Alamos Study Group’s website.

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

NEWS RELEASE
March 21, 2014
Contact: Jim Winchester
Communications Director
New Mexico Environment Department
(505)231-8800 / jim.winchester@state.nm.us
Environment Department Withdraws Draft Permit for Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) Class 3 Permit Modification Request
Department Needs Additional Information Related To The Two Recent Incidents At WIPP

Santa Fe – The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) today notified U.S. Department of Energy Waste Isolation Pilot Plant leaders that it has withdrawn the pending draft Permit for the Class 3 Permit modification request in light of the February 5, 2014 fire in the underground and the February 14, 2014 radioactive material release. NMED has requested, and will be requesting additional information related to these events that may influence the draft Permit. The withdrawal of the draft Permit is effective immediately and closes the current 60-day public comment period.

“NMED cannot move forward on the WIPP’s request to open additional underground storage panels and for the other requested permit modifications until more information is known about the recent events at the WIPP,” said Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn. “Just as NMED needs more information to make informed decisions on permit modifications, the public also needs more information about the radiation release in order to provide informed input during the public comment period. Once NMED has all of our questions answered, we will proceed with consideration of a revised draft Permit.”

On March 18, 2013, NMED received the Class 3 Permit Modification Request which included three items: (1) Modifications to the WIPP Panel Closure; (2) Repository Reconfiguration of Panels 9 and 10; and (3) Changes to the Volatile Organic Compound Monitoring Program. The draft permit was issued by NMED for public comment on February 14, 2014, and the comment period was scheduled to conclude on April 15, 2014. NMED may issue a revised draft when it is appropriate, but no timetable has been set for a possible reissuance due to the WIPP shutdown and ongoing incident investigation. In such a case, a revised draft Permit will be issued for public comment and a new public comment period will begin in accordance with the regulations.

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