Op=Ed: Los Alamos National Lab Cleanup = More Jobs, Healthier Local Environment
The effort to cleanup 70+ years of Los Alamos National Laboratories nuclear legacy waste is no small undertaking. Through that process, the Department of Energy (DOE) estimates Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) will be fully remediated by year 2035. With a new Environmental Management contractor soon taking the reins, they will be embarking upon the hopeful beginning of the end of ‘legacy waste’ cleanup at LANL.
To achieve this goal, there is much work ahead of the oncoming contractor. They must comply with federal and state regulation, engage the public when a remedy is recommended for each site, and hit certain milestones in their goals to cleanup specific sites at various levels of risk, skill, and compliance. This contractor must make notable and safe progress on the Chromium Plume bordering LANL and San Ildefonso pueblo, characterizing and remediating RDX (WWII-era explosives), and begin progress on Technical Area-21 (Manhattan Project and Cold War-era production facilities, labs and offices).
By way of cleaning up vast areas at LANL, cleanup contractors bring in hundreds of jobs, depending on the projects, subsequently training and hiring staff across the state and country. As they get started, we would like to remind the cleanup contractor that their first customers of this work are the surrounding communities who live in and around Northern New Mexico. And, would like to welcome this new contractor to the community of those who have come to serve the mission at LANL. The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, comprised of nine municipal, county, and tribal communities surrounding the Lab, congratulates the oncoming contractor and anticipates discussing our cleanup priorities and requests during the lifetime of their contract to ensure 10-years of ongoing, safe, efficient, effective, and regulatorially compliant work.
The RCLC advocates not only for a successful cleanup program, but also successful community engagement with the next contractor. Our local governments and citizens are greatly impacted by LANL missions and contractor decisions. We ask that the oncoming contractor engage instrumentally in community commitment in areas of greatest need; such as workforce, education and economic development. We anticipate the investment in these areas to provide positive and lasting economic, environmental and public health impacts felt throughout the region for years to come. In the collective interest of the region, we look forward to partnering in the work of the oncoming cleanup contractor to help achieve its cleanup and community commitment goals in all ways possible.
Overall, the importance of direct and regular communication between state and local governments, tribal nations, DOE Environmental Management and the oncoming contractor is essential for achieving a successful cleanup mission. As the current contractor, Los Alamos National Security, transitions out, we are hopeful for a smooth transition of the next cleanup contractor and continuation of and improvement upon marked successes and milestones of the oncoming work.
We all succeed when the contractor succeeds: a cleaner environment, more jobs and better trained personnel in skills applicable across industries. We thank the oncoming cleanup contractor in advance for its noble and committed efforts to meet the challenges of remediating legacy waste at LANL and providing a safer, cleaner environment to those who work in and around LANL. Our region is counting on the contractor to do an excellent job and we look forward to engaging in a bright future together.