MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations

SRIC's Nuclear Waste Documents

Information about the February 14, 2014 WIPP Radiation Leak can be found here.

NAS WIPP Committee.
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), at the request of DOE regarding congressional appropriations provisions, has established a new committee on "Disposal of Surplus Plutonium in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant." As part of its first meeting on November 29, 2017 SRIC's Don Hancock was invited to briefly address the committee (presentation).

DOE's Plan to Exceed WIPP Waste Limits
SRIC opposes DOE's Plan to keep WIPP open until 2050 and dramatically exceed the legal limits of waste allowed. That 2016 Plan was publicly released in response to SRIC's Freedom of Information Act request. (DOE's FOIA response and the Plan.) DOE is in the process of updating the Plan and there should be opportunities for public comment.

Don Hancock, Soutwest Research and Information Center by Paul DeRienzo. The Torch Sundays 1PM on PRN.fm Don Hancock is a leading expert on nuclear waste generated by the United States Nuclear Weapons Complex. Based in New Mexico he is watchdog over the Los Alamos National Lab which has designed and built nuclear weapons for the military since 1942. We discuss the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and the explosive nature of nuclear waste. (03/06/2017)

NEPA needed before WIPP re-opens — On November 21, 2016, the Natural Resources Defense Council and SRIC wrote to DOE regarding new NEPA documents required before WIPP can re-open to handle more nuclear waste. DOE responded on February 6, 2017. NRDC and SRIC replied on February 15.

Current DOE Proposals to Expand WIPP — Hign-Level Waste,Surface Storage, GTCC, Mercury, and Commercial Waste being considered, among other means to expand the types and amounts of waste. (9/15/2017).

Among the last activities conducted by EEG was a workshop on March 16, 2004 related to technical issues regarding some of the high-level waste tanks at DOE's Hanford, Washington site and whether some of the wastes could be disposed at WIPP. Because EEG funding was terminated shortly after the workshop, the planned report of the workshop was not completed. However, in 2013 DOE again proposed sending some of that tank waste to WIPP.
Two of the EEG scientists in charge of the workshop - George Anastas and James Channell - compiled a summary of the workshop to enhance public understanding of those issues. (June 2013)


Holtec has submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license to store ALL of the nation's commercial spent fuel at a site in southeastern New Mexico. Many organizations, individuals, and SRIC strongly oppose such a facility in New Mexico or elsewhere because it is dangerous, unnecessary, and expensive. FAQ Sheet


Please check back for updates (Latest update: 06/26/2017)

  1. On June 14, 2017, DOE and its co-permittee, Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, submitted a class 1 Permit Modification (which doesn’t require NMED approval) of nine items. http://www.wipp.energy.gov/library/Information_Repository_A
    • On June 20, SRIC submitted a letter to NMED strongly objecting to Item 9 as not being a proper class 1 modification and asking NMED to reject it or for the permittees to withdraw that item.
    • On August 31, NMED Secretary Butch Tongate responded to SRIC's letter, saying that the modification was proper. He described forthcoming inspections that NMED would conduct at WIPP.
  2. On April 27, 2017, DOE and its co-permittee, Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, submitted a class 1 Permit Modification (which doesn’t require NMED approval) to change Table 3.1.1 of the Permit regarding container equivalent quantities that can be stored in the Waste Handling Building. On April 28, SRIC submitted a letter to NMED strongly objecting to the modification and stating that it must be rejected because it is not an appropriate class 1 modification request. On May 12, the permittees withdrew the modification. http://www.wipp.energy.gov/library/Information_Repository_A/
  3. On November 10, 2016, DOE and its co-permittee, Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, submitted a revised class 3 Permit Modification Request for panel closure (see #6 below) and a Temporary Authorization (TA) request so that it could make the proposed changes before public comments are considered. On February 13, 2017, DOE withdrew the TA request. http://www.wipp.energy.gov/library/Information_Repository_A/
  4. On September 29, 2016, DOE and its co-permittee, Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, submitted a class 3 Permit Modification Request –Above Ground Storage. If approved, the modification would allow an open air storage pad that would increase the amount of contact-handled waste that can be stored on the surface by more than 500 percent from 434. 1 cubic meters to 2,270.1 cubic meters. SRIC and many other groups strongly oppose the request and urge people to comment by February 3, 2017.
  5. On June 3, 2016, DOE and its co-permittee, Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, submitted a class 2 Permit Modification Request –Active Room Ventilation Flow Rate and Contingency Plan changes. The change to ventilation allows DOE to decide to continue operations in a waste room even if the ventilation flow rate was less than the 35,000 cubic feet per minute permit requirement.
  6. On September 8, 2015, DOE and its co-permittee, Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, submitted a package of seven topics as class 2 Permit Modification Requests - Revise Volatile Organic Compound Monitoring Procedures. Some of the changes are similar to those proposed in the March 18, 2013 request (see #3) and would reduce worker and public health protection. The request also would result in eliminating some of the ventilation requirements, while also not discussing the proposed new supplemental ventilation system.
  7. On April 8, 2013, DOE and its co-permittee, Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, submitted a class 2 Permit Modification Request — Modify Excluded Waste Prohibition — to eliminate the requirement in the WIPP permit for a public hearing before any waste that has ever been managed as high-level could be allowed.  This change would significantly reduce health and safety protections at WIPP and the public involvement requirements. Comment period ended June 10, 2013.
  8. On March 18, 2013, DOE and its co-permittee, Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, submitted a package of three class 3 Permit Modification Requests - Modify WIPP Panel Closure Design, Repository Reconfiguration of Panels 9 and 10, and Revise the Volatile Organic Compound underground monitoring system. These changes would significantly change the underground operations that have been established over the past 14 years. SRIC's comments suggest numerous changes and request negotiations before NMED issues a draft permit and holds public hearings.
  9. On December 12, 2012, DOE and its co-permittee, Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, submitted a class 2 Permit Modification Request - Revise Waste Analysis Plan Waste Characterization Methods so that it can eliminate the chemical sampling and analyis requirements of the WIPP permit Waste Analysis Plan (WAP). This would reduce health and safety protections at WIPP. Let NMED know that you are concerned, see SRIC Fact Sheet about Sampling for details. Comment period ended February 18, 2013.


Please check back for updates (Latest update: 01/03/2018)

Even though federal laws limit the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) to be used only for defense transuranic (plutonium-contaminated) waste from nuclear weapons, the Department of Energy (DOE) proposed actions to expand WIPP to three additional missions in 2012-2013. Two of those proposals had additional action in 2016.

On December 15, 2017, DOE released a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for a Surface Storage Facility at WIPP. SRIC and many other organizations strongly oppose such a facility because of its dangers and that it is not legally authorized by Congress. On January 2, 2018, SRIC requested at least a two-week extension on the public comment period until two reference documents are released.

On January 4, DOE extended the comment period until January 29, 2018.

Comments can be submitted to: WIPP.EA@WIPP.ws

Also, in December 2016, as part of re-opening WIPP for limited operations, DOE released a Supplement Analysis (SA) (http://www.wipp.energy.gov/Special/Supplemental_Analysis.pdf), which said more extensive analysis was not necessary, despite the November 21 NRDC-SRIC letter. Under the Freedom of Information Act, DOE also provided the Data Call reference for the SA.

It is important for federal and state decision-makers to know what people in New Mexico (and elsewhere) think about the expansions. SRIC strongly encourages interested people to be involved. We will provide updated information, as DOE moves forward with its actions.

The three additional missions:

  1. Storage of up to 10,000 tons of elemental mercury for 40 years or more. DOE issued a supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to include WIPP and a nearby site in September 2013. http://energy.gov/nepa/downloads/eis-0423-s1-final-supplemental-environmental-impact-statement No further action has been taken as Congress must approve funding for the storage facility.
  2. Disposal of commercial Greater-Than-Class C waste. DOE planned to issue a Final EIS for WIPP to be the disposal site for 160,000,000 curies of commercial waste in 2012, after having issued in 2011 a Draft EIS for public comment and hearings. No further action has been taken, although DOE officials have stated that the Final EIS might be issued by the end of 2015. The Final EIS was issued on February 24, 2016.
  3. Disposal of surplus plutonium from the Savannah River Site. In July 2012, DOE issued a Draft Supplemental EIS for up to 6 metric tons of plutonium to be added to WIPP’s inventory. See a Chronology and SRIC’s written comments in early 2012 and in October 2012. The Final Supplemental EIS was issued in April 2015. http://energy.gov/nepa/downloads/eis-0283-s2-final-supplemental-environmental-impact-statement.
    The Record of Decision was signed on March 29, 2016.


Shielded Container (Updated 7/24/14)

UPDATE: DOE has announced that the first shipment of shielded containers will be on September 12 from Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. This date was not known when SRIC filed its "Motion for Stay."

The Court is aware of the September 12 date, but we do not know whether it will issue a decision before that date. (9/6/13)

BACKGROUND: Disposal of remote-handled (RH) waste in shielded containers. DOE has re-submitted a permit modification request to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED). This follows their request in 2011 (see documents below). The Modification Request was submitted on 7/5/2012.


On April 8, 2013, DOE and its co-permittee, Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, submitted a class 2 Permit Modification Request — Modify Excluded Waste Prohibition — to eliminate the requirement in the WIPP permit for a public hearing before any waste that has ever been managed as high-level could be allowed.  This change would significantly reduce health and safety protections at WIPP and the public involvement requirements. Comment period ended June 10, 2013.

SRIC comments to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee RE: Discussion Draft of Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013 (5/24/2013)

Letter Opposing Proposal to Ship Hanford High-Level Radioactive Waste to New Mexico Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Hanford Challenge, and Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) (3/26/13)

SRIC OpEd: No need for change in law to expand WIPP Regarding Journal Editorial of 5/17/2013 and Rep. Steve Pearce's bill, HR 1879 (5/23/2013)

La Jicarita article: WIPP: Expanding Threat to Public Health? (3/12/2013)

FACT SHEET: Why WIPP is Not the Place for Spent Nuclear Fuel and High Level Waste (2/8/2013)

"CONSENT" for Nuclear Waste Sites

In 2016, DOE held ten meetings around the country to discuss what communities need to "consent" to commercial spent fuel storage sites and a defense high-level waste repository.

Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future

Rising Carbon Tetrachloride Levels at WIPP:

GNEP Site Awards

(all of the GNEP Site Awards can be found at http://www.gnep.energy.gov/gnepSitingStudies.html)

Sandia National Laboratory:

Canada's Deep Geologic Repository 2013-2014

Ontario Power Generation Company has applied for a license from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for Low and Intermediate Level Waste disposal from its nuclear power plants — Deep Geologic Repository (DGR). In 2013 Northwatch, a Canadian public interest organization, requested that SRIC be part of its team of consultants in the environmental review and licensing process.

Southwest Research and Information Center prepared a report for Northwatch WIPP and International Experience with Deep Geologic Repositories, (August 2013), on Canada's Proposed Deep Geologic Repository on the shores of Lake Huron. There was a public hearing from September 16 to October 12, 2013. Northwatch's complete written submission of the hearing is at:

The Deep Geologic Repository Joint Review Panel Hearing began on September 17, 2013. Details about the hearing schedule could be found on: http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/050/documents/p17520/94174E.pdf

SRIC's Don Hancock testified on Monday, September 23, 2013 during the afternoon session - 2 to 5 pm (Eastern Time); Noon to 3 pm Mountain Time. Read SRIC's presentation on behalf of Northwatch. It is to be given at the Public Hearing in Kincardine, Ontario, Canada on the proposed Deep Geologic Repository.

All of the hearings were webcast live starting September 17, 2013, lasting 25 days. Transcripts and other documents from the hearing can be found at here.

On June 3, 2014 a notice posted regarding an additional Deep Geologic Repository Joint Review Panel Hearing, set to resume on September 9, 2014. Among the issues about which the Panel requested additional information is what impacts, if any, the WIPP events in February 2014 have on the safety analysis for the DGR.

Northwatch has again asked SRIC's Don Hancock to provide information for that hearing. The report is "Recent Events at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and Initial Questions and Lessons for the Ontario Power Generation Proposed Deep Geologic Repository."

Northwatch's complete submission for this hearing is at: http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/050/documents/p17520/99600E.pdf

SRIC's Don Hancock gave a powerpoint presentation on behalf of Northwatch and the Ontario Clean Air Alliance on September 9.

An article about the hearing appeared in the Toronto Star: "OPG works to calm concerns over nuclear waste dump"

The hearings were held from September 9 - 18 in Kincardine, Ontario. The hearing transcripts and webcasts are at: http://www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/the-commission/joint_review_panel/deep-geologic-repository/index.cfm


Will EPA Recertify the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)? Presentation by Don Hancock (06/09/2015)

Presentation materials for the Interim Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee of the New Mexico Legislature, Carlsbad, NM meeting. (10/8/2013)

WIPP Transportation Accidents 2002 - 2009 (5/8/2012)

Citizen groups oppose the siting process of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). See the letter to Congress here. (1/25/2007).

Letter to USEPA re: Los Alamos National Laboratory Plutonium and shipments to WIPP (3/22/2006).

Letter to New Mexico Environment Department, RE: Deadlines for pending Class 3 modification (1/11/2006). See NMED's response here.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant: How Well is "Accelerated Cleanup" Working? (large 2 M .pdf) (8/16/2005)

SRIC questions to NRC regarding redaction of DEIS on LES uranium enrichment plant (12/29/2004)

Cumulative WIPP Shipments (10/25/2004)

SRIC asks New Mexico Environment Department to continue delay in shipments from Idaho to WIPP (8/30/2004)

Letter to EPA Regarding Flaws in Recertification Application for WIPP (8/21/2004)

SRIC's comments to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission re: LES Environmental Impact Statement (3/18/2004)

Letter from Sen. Jeff Bingaman to DOE re: Opposing Waste from the West Valley Demonstration Project being shipped to WIPP (2/6/2004)

SRIC's comments to NM Environment Dept. re: Agency-Initiated WIPP Permit Modification (1/30/2004)

Letter to EPA Opposing Remote Handled Waste at WIPP (1/30/2004)

SRIC Objects to DOE's Plans to Ship Prohibited Waste from the West Valley Demonstration Project to WIPP (1/23/04)

Site Breakdown of Curies in WIPP Shipments(9/3/02)

Letter to DOE, concerns about WIPP Waste Truck Accident (08/29/02)

Letter to DOE, RE: the Performance Management Plan
"accelerated cleanup" regarding transuranic waste and WIPP

Letter to DOE, RE: concerns about
WIPP Waste Information System

DOE Says YES to Yucca Mountain —
Nevada Says NO to Yucca Mountain


SRIC Comments to NMED re: Class 2 Permit Modification 11/2/01

SRIC comments to NMED re: Class 3 permit modification 9/27/01

SRIC Opposition to "Temporary Authorization Request" 9/6/01

Site by Site Breakdown of WIPP Shipments (UPDATED 1/16/2002)

SRIC Comments to EPA re: Waste Characterization Program
and Protesting Inadequacy of Comment Time

SRIC urges NMED to NOT Grant DOE's Storage Extension Request 7/13/2001

SRIC urges NMED take immediate action
before permit violations occur

SRIC Comments on the requested
5/2/01 Class 2 Permit Modifications for WIPP

Class 1 Permit Modification Violations per the
WIPP Hazardous Waste Act Permit — 6/25/01

Information on Shipments to WIPP (UPDATED 2/15/2001)

SRIC Comments on Class 2 Permit Modification for the
WIPP Hazardous Waste Act Permit — 5/14/01

July 14, 2000 Memorandum in Support of Appellants Motion for a Stay

Letter to Sec. Maggiore, NM Environment Dept.,
re: Opposition to Class 1 modification to permit

Proposed Truck Shipment Routes to WIPP

Brief Chronology of Major WIPP Events
from 1972 to 2000

Summary of on-going WIPP litigation (updated 11/13/2000)

The Ambushed Grand Jury is the true story of four Citizen Investigators who uncover the Justice Department’s cover-up of deadly radioactive contamination at Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant.

Deceived by the Justice Department’s cover-up, relying on false assurances that Rocky Flats wasn’t as contaminated as everyone had thought, public officials now plan to open the former nuclear weapons plant to recreation. Children will play in these radioactive fields ... unless the Citizens’ Investigation – with the reader's help - can stop these dangerous plans. All authors' profits will be donated to environmental and nuclear activist groups around the country to help them carry on their important work. You will be asked during checkout to pick the organization of your choice. Read more.

Updates of our Nuclear Waste Program activities can be found in the Nuclear Waste Issue and the Nuclear West Issueof Voices from the Earth

Voices from the Earth

Additional information can be found in The Workbook (discontinued):

The Workbook

For further information contact us at sricdon@earthlink.net or call (505) 262-1862, fax: (505) 262-1864.

WIPP Radiation Leak
Status Update (09/15/17)

No to WIPP

Nuclear Waste Documents


Facing Reality Series

Other Nuclear Waste Groups

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