Aug 1, 2007

Nuke waste advisory board is recruiting

Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board
By ANDY LENDERMAN | The New Mexican
July 31, 2007

A federal advisory board that monitors the environment and nuclear waste cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory is looking for members.

There are 10 openings for the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board, a volunteer group that closely studies environmental contamination at the lab and ways to fix it. The board formally advises the U.S. Department of Energy on environmental matters, and the director is recruiting.

“We’re chartered by the DOE,” explained Menice Santistevan, the board’s executive director. “The department is obliged to respond to our recommendations.”

The board, which currently has 14 members from all over the north, is “the conduit between DOE and the citizens of Northern New Mexico,” Santistevan said.

Cleanup at the lab is no small matter. The lab estimates roughly 700 sites need to be cleaned up at a total cost of $1 billion. Also, the New Mexico Environment Department is working to enforce a legal agreement that governs cleanup at the lab, except for radionuclides like plutonium, which is regulated by the federal government.

Board volunteers only need the time to attend meetings and the interest to learn about these issues. “You don’t have to have a technical background,” Santistevan said.

There are six board meetings a year, and committees meet monthly.

Board chairman J.D. Campbell, a Taos engineer, said the ongoing investigation of the groundwater-monitoring program at the lab has been a success for the board. Although that effort was initiated by an outside engineer, the board pursued the issue and enlisted the help of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lab, Campbell said. The end result was a study performed by the National Research Council, which concluded more work needs to be done to find out how lab operations could impact groundwater.

“That has been a fulfilling and continuing effort,” Campbell said.

Campbell also highlighted the board’s work around explaining options for Area G, a 65-acre dump at the lab that opened in 1957. There are about 200 pits and 38 shafts at that dump, and environmentalists have expressed concern that waste could eventually seep into the regional aquifer from the unlined dump. Lab officials say the dump is 850 feet above the aquifer and no contamination has been detected.

Options include capping the dump and monitoring it, or although expensive, moving it to another place.

“We are now planning another public meeting early next year to pursue all those alternatives and go get feedback for the public before the state ... makes a choice on the remedy,” Campbell said.

For more information, call the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board at 989-1662 or visit

Contact Andy Lenderman at 995-3827 or


Anonymous said...

I can't imagine a great waste of time than serving on this DOE controlled, Lab-manipulated so-called board of community reps. Been there, done it...was a total waste of time. It's a facade activity, creating the illusion that the DOE/Lab cares about community input when, in fact, that couldn't be further from the truth. Trying to get hard data for the committe to review, to analyze, to understand, as a basis for making cleanup/resotration recommendations, was like pulling teeth. We could never get the powers that be to share the information we needed (requested) so that we could understand the risks. Yet we were expected to rubber stamp DOE/Lab priorities and conclusions that may or may not have been rooted in reality. It was like driving a vehicle in the dark and without lights, only with a voice in your ear telling you which way to turn and how fast to drive, but never knowing for sure where you were headed or why. A total absolute waste of time and energy.

Anonymous said...

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