An indoor facility for storing and shipping radioactive waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory is operating for the first time in five years.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, authorities at the lab announced last week that the Radioassay and Nondestructive Testing (RANT) shipping facility has passed safety inspections and will reopen after being plagued by problems for the last five years. New upgrades including steel reinforcement panels and a new concrete roof and walls have reportedly made the structure sounder and authorities say it will be better protected in case of a major seismic events.
Last week a press release from the lab announced that the first shipment of Transuranic (TRU) waste from the RANT facility to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad in five years had been successfully completed. Los Alamos is reportedly the largest producer of TRU waste in the nuclear security industry. Officials say plutonium manufacturing will continue to increase in the US, and a properly functioning waste disposition program will grow alongside it.
NM Methane Emissions Higher than Reported
Last week an environmental group released evidence that New Mexico's methane emissions are climbing thanks to increased oil and gas production in the Permian Basin.
The Environmental Defense Fund reportedly conducted tests at about 90 well facilities in the Permian Basin of New Mexico and Texas in 2018 to measure methane emissions and find leaks. It released the findings last week, claiming the state's methane emission levels were five times higher than the federal Environmental Protection Agency reported. EDF estimates the state is wasting $275 million worth of natural gas from leaks. It also claims $43 million in tax and royalty revenue is being lost by the state every year due to methane waste.
Robert McEntyre, a spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, told reporters at The Durango Herald that the announcement was made to promote a political agenda and is not based in fact.
Sacred Site Protections Considered
Federal lawmakers traveled to New Mexico this week to collect testimonies from advocates looking to restrict oil and gas drilling near Native American cultural sites like Chaco Culture National Historic Park.
The Associated Press reports that the US House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources made a research trip to the state's capitol to discuss the protection of Native cultural sites from air pollution during a public hearing. Lawmakers spoke with tribal leaders, archaeologists and experts in the field.
Last week a bill was introduced in Washington that would create a 10-mile protective buffer zone around the Chaco Canyon park, preventing oil and gas companies from drilling there. Federal lawmakers visited the site over the weekend . The proposed buffer zone would include individually owned, state, federal and tribal lands.
Oil industry representatives say protections for the park are already in place. According to KOB, New Mexico Oil and Gas Association spokesperson Robert McEntyre said the buffer zone was “arbitrary” and “little more than a political charade.”