New Mexico Demands More Details on Threats From Nuclear Leak Site

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
May 16, 2014, 9:33 a.m.

New Mex­ico wants to end fed­er­al breaches of re­port­ing rules for dan­ger­ous sub­stances at a nuc­le­ar dump near Carls­bad, the Al­buquerque Journ­al re­ports.

The state’s en­vir­on­ment­al agency this week form­ally ordered the En­ergy De­part­ment to ex­plain how it will fall back in line with rules re­quir­ing weekly de­clar­a­tions on levels of meth­ane, hy­dro­gen and oth­er haz­ard­ous sub­stances at the Waste Isol­a­tion Pi­lot Plant, the news­pa­per re­por­ted on Thursday. Fed­er­al of­fi­cials began run­ning afoul of the re­quire­ments after an es­cape of ra­dio­act­ive con­tam­in­ants forced work­ers to va­cate un­der­ground por­tions of the site in Feb­ru­ary.

A New Mex­ico En­vir­on­ment De­part­ment man­date also de­mands that more ex­tens­ive sup­ple­ment­ary as­sess­ments be is­sued on a bi­weekly basis. The state’s ac­tion ap­plies to the En­ergy De­part­ment as well as the buri­al site’s man­aging con­tract­or, Nuc­le­ar Waste Part­ner­ship.

At a pub­lic meet­ing last week, a top state over­sight of­fi­cial re­spon­ded an­grily to a site ad­min­is­trat­or for de­flect­ing a journ­al­ist’s in­quiry about waste casks sus­pec­ted of hav­ing caused the Feb­ru­ary con­tam­in­a­tion in­cid­ent. New Mex­ico En­vir­on­ment Sec­ret­ary Ry­an Flynn called the move “a really good ex­ample … of some of the frus­tra­tion that I’ve had since I was no­ti­fied about this event.”

“If you have in­form­a­tion, you need to dis­close that in­form­a­tion to the pub­lic im­me­di­ately,” Flynn said.

An­oth­er New Mex­ico of­fi­cial said the nuc­le­ar dump’s man­age­ment stepped up con­tacts with the state as a probe on the ra­di­ation in­cid­ent un­fol­ded.

Now, though, “we know on the re­cord, in an en­force­able or­der, we’re go­ing to get this in­form­a­tion reg­u­larly,” said Jeff Kend­all, gen­er­al coun­sel for the state’s en­vir­on­ment­al agency. “Non­com­pli­ance with the or­der has cer­tain con­sequences.”

Ac­cord­ing to the En­ergy De­part­ment’s Carls­bad out­post, the new state man­date sub­jects sub­ter­ranean areas of the fa­cil­ity to rules already in force at its sur­face.

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