DOE and State Come To Terms On LANL Fines: Agreement Sets Stage For Next Steps In Restarting Cleanup On The Hill

by Staff Reporter / May 01, 2015 / comments
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez greets Terry Aguilar, former governor of San Ildefonso Pueblo, while Frank Marcinowski (lower right), EM deputy assistant secretary of waste management, and Dan Cox, LANL associate deputy director for environmental affairs, look on.

DOE and State Come To Terms On LANL Fines: Agreement Sets Stage For Next Steps In Restarting Cleanup On The Hill

WASHINGTON—Thursday, the Sate of New Mexico and U.S. Department of Energy released the terms of a $73 million settlement of the State’s claims against the Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractors related to the February 2014 incidents at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, including the associated activities at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

“The Department of Energy and the State of New Mexico have worked together to identify projects at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and the Los Alamos National Laboratory that are mutually beneficial and do not detract from cleanup at these sites,” said Secretary Moniz. “I am pleased that we were able to find a solution that will allow the Department to focus on resuming operations at WIPP and improving our waste management operations, while providing benefit to the environment and to local communities in New Mexico.”

“This agreement underscores the importance of WIPP and LANL as critical assets to our nation’s security, our state’s economy, and the communities in which they operate,” said Governor Martinez.  “The funds we will receive through the agreement  will be used to continue ensuring the safety and success of these important facilities, the people who work there, and their local communities.  I commend the Department of Energy for taking responsibility, and we look forward to continuing to work with the federal government to ensure the safety and success of LANL and WIPP.”

Senator Martin Heinrich who has been actively following this issue released a statement soon after the agreement was announced. “This is a smart solution.” Said Heinrich. “ I am pleased that the Department of Energy has agreed to compensate the people of New Mexico by investing in safer roads, better water infrastructure, and training for our first responders. Every report done by the accident investigation boards identified significant management failures at every level as the principal cause of the accidents, and identified a number of required actions to correct the deficiencies. The Department of Energy must continue to address and correct these deficiencies so that WIPP can return to safe operation and the cleanup work at Los Alamos can be conducted safely, while protecting the workers, the community, and the environment.”

Under this agreement, instead of paying fines DOE will provide support for a variety of mutually beneficial and critical projects that will protect local communities and better safeguard transportation routes in New Mexico and around DOE sites, which will improve the safety and security of nuclear materials and the designated roads on which they travel.

These projects, estimated at a total value of $73 million, include approximately:

·      $34 million to improve roads and transportation routes around the WIPP site in Southeastern New Mexico;

·      $12 million to improve transuranic waste transportation routes in and around Los Alamos;

·      $10 million to upgrade critical water infrastructure in and around Los Alamos;

·      $9.5 million to build engineering structures and increase monitoring capabilities around LANL to better manage storm water flows;

·      $5 million to construct an emergency operations center in Carlsbad and provide enhanced training for emergency responders and mine rescue teams; and,

·      $2.75 million to fund an independent triennial compliance and operational review.

The agreement further provides for DOE and its contractors to implement the necessary corrective actions at both facilities in order to ensure safe and sustainable continued operations. 

In December, NMED issued two Administrative Consent Orders to DOE that asserted 31 violations at WIPP and LANL in December 2014, resulting in NMED’s request for $54,350,899 in civil penalties. Today’s Settlement Agreement resolves those Consent Orders as well as any other potential DOE and DOE-contractor liabilities to the State of New Mexico arising out of the February 2014 events at WIPP.

The agreement  signed by NMED, DOE, Los Alamos National Security and Nuclear Waste Partnership today will bind the Parties’ execution of a more detailed implementation plan in the weeks to come.