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The ten-year hazardous waste renewal permit for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) has been finalized after successful negotiations. CVNM, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), and the US Department of Energy (DOE), along with our allies Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and Southwest Research and Information Center, reached a successful compromise.

We thank Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, NMED Secretary Kenney, Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD), and interim Bureau Chief Megan McLean of the NMED Hazardous Waste Bureau for the pivotal role they played in strengthening the language of the draft permit renewal.

This progress came after CVNM and our allies requested a public hearing in April to dispute parts of the draft permit. After four days of negotiations, changes were made to the renewal permit and the public hearing requests were subsequently withdrawn. 

These are a few of the changes that were made to the draft renewal permit:

  • The US Department of Energy (DOE)  will now be required to provide an annual report about the progress it has made toward establishing another repository for  radioactive waste in a state other than New Mexico
  • The NMED will exercise its power to close the site if Congress changes the limit on the amount of waste that can be disposed of at WIPP 
  • The DOE and its contractors will implement a new plan with a complete inventory of legacy waste around the U.S. for disposal at WIPP
  • The permit will include additional public notice and participation opportunities
  • The permit will also prioritize the removal of waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory to WIPP to help ensure that contamination at the Laboratory doesn’t reach the regional aquifer or downstream waters such as the Rio Grande 

It’s critical that we keep New Mexico’s people, lands, water and wildlife safe from radioactive contamination, and the conditions negotiated for the renewal permit are a step toward that essential goal. 

If you’re curious about some of the changes made to the renewal permit, you can ask your questions via NMED’s public comment process (extended through September 22nd), or during the hybrid public meeting they will hold on September 22nd. Participants can join that meeting online or in person in Carlsbad or Santa Fe. We’ll provide more information on how to register when it becomes available. 

If you’d like to learn more about WIPP, click here, and if you’d like to learn more about New Mexico’s ongoing battle with radioactive waste, click here