By: Jamison Wagner, Staff Reporter
Lucille Cordova, Liberal Arts graduate, is working with the Southwest Research and Information Center to raise awareness of the dangers of highly toxic nuclear waste being dumped at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, she said.
Cordova is in charge of creating public awareness events for the Center to help the community become better informed of what is going on at the waste plant and, if they choose, get involved, she said.
According to wipp.energy.gov, the plant started receiving waste in 1999 and is designed to handle low- to mid-level radioactive waste, rather than the high-level waste that is being sent there.
Don Hancock, Nuclear Waste Program director at SRIC, said the WIPP is not designed to handle nuclear waste that comes from the developing of materials for atomic bombs or the waste from nuclear power plants.
The Department of Energy has been trying to solve the issue of heavy contamination from leaking waste barrels at the Hanford, Washington nuclear waste site, and they are trying to change the law so that DOE can transfer nuclear waste from the Hanford site to WIPP, but this will not resolve the problem, he said.
Nearly two dozen nuclear facilities have unloaded waste at WIPP, but Hanford waste is not authorized there, according to hanfordwatch.org.
From the time of the Manhattan project, New Mexico has been heavily involved in the development of nuclear weapons and dumping of waste, Cordova said.
The WIPP site is not suited for this kind of waste because not only is there drilling for oil nearby, but WIPP is less than seven miles from the Pecos River.
If there is any mistake in storing the waste, the consequences could be severe for the local environment, he said.
“This is potentially dangerous to the workers handling the waste as well as the environment, said Hancock.
When workers were handling this waste in the past at Rocky Flats in Colorado, it was not secured properly, and they inhaled the chemicals which led to a few thousand workers getting severe lung disease, he said.
Since the 1940s, the government has used New Mexico as a place to do things out of the national eye, she said.
“I personally feel that this is a bit of an environmental racism issue. Even now, people don’t hesitate to say, ‘well let’s send our waste to New Mexico,’” said Cordova.
For more information, visit no2wipp.org, sric.org and wipp.energy.gov
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