With shadow chancellor Ed Balls’ recent comment, suggesting how people should keep their household accounts, a question springs to mind. When Sellafield received a £700,000 fine for illegal dumping in 2013 and lost a subsequent appeal, did anybody actually wonder if the fine was ever paid? Where did the money actually came from and where it went? Is there a publicly available audit trail?
We have been following the problems, at what was the only working GDF (Geological Disposal Facility) in the world, at the WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) in Carlsbad, New Mexico. A year ago, a drum containing waste packed in organic cat litter, leaked, contaminating nearly two dozen WIPP workers with low levels of radiation. WIPP isn’t expected to start reopening until next year and getting the facility back in operation is projected to cost a half-billion dollars.
Although quite different situations, the above incidents both involve the disposal of nuclear waste and the following news item from the Albuquerque Journal appears to illustrate a potential parallel:
SANTA FE – The federal Department of Energy is taking the position that any state fines it pays for a radioactive leak at the nation’s nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad will come from money appropriated to clean up decades’ worth of contamination from nuclear weapons work in New Mexico.
“Any fines and penalties assessed on the EM (environmental management) program would be provided by cleanup dollars, resulting in reduced funding for cleanup activities,” says a 2016 budget year summary presented earlier this month by DOE’s Office of Environmental Management.
The New Mexico Environment Department has fined DOE $54 million for the leak from a drum of radioactive waste processed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The drum ruptured in February 2014 and has shut down the underground Waste Isolation Pilot Project, halting delivery of waste from Los Alamos and other weapons complex sites to the underground facility.
Under DOE’s stance, the $185 million that LANL is budgeted to receive for fiscal year 2016 for cleanup of radioactive and hazardous waste would be reduced by the $37 million in fines that the state wants for LANL’s role in the WIPP leak. NMED has also fined WIPP $17 million.
NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn has previously argued that the fines, which DOE is appealing, shouldn’t come from cleanup dollars. In that case, he said in November,
“you’re not punishing the people who caused the problem, you’re punishing the people of New Mexico who benefit from the environmental cleanup work.”
He added in a prepared comment provided Friday:
“Essentially, DOE is threatening to punish states by doing less cleanup work if states attempt to hold it accountable for violating federal and state environmental laws.
States like New Mexico welcome federal facilities into our communities with the understanding that these facilities will respect the health and safety of our citizens by complying with federal and state laws.”
Read the full article here: Albuquerque Journal