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Experts testify at WIPP hearings

The New Mexico Environment Department is holding a public hearing, likely through March, on its proposed operating permit for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). The hearing includes both expert technical testimony and cross-examination in Santa Fe, as well as public comments in Santa Fe and Carlsbad.

SRIC has been actively involved in the permitting process for several years, and, in coordination with Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, is submitting testimony from four experts regarding inadequate information on the proposed wastes, the dangers of using the existing underground rooms because the roof will collapse, and releases from the disposal site because of oil and gas activities. The decision on the permit should be made in the fall of 1999.

In late March, a Washington, D.C., judge will decide if any wastes can go to WIPP until that operating permit is issued; a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will rule on lawsuits filed by SRIC and others to overturn the certification by the Environmental Protection Agency that WIPP complies with radioactive waste disposal requirements.

- Don Hancock,
Nuclear Waste Safety Program

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