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Dr. Robert (“Stu”) Dinwiddie, Ph.D., hereby submits the following technical comments in support of denial of the application for Corrective Action Complete for Sandia National Laboratories’ Mixed Waste Landfill (MWL). 


  1. During the period from 1994 to 1995, I was the Supervisor for Department of Energy Permitting & Corrective Action Projects for the NMED Hazardous & Radioactive Materials Bureau.
  2. During the period from 1995 to 1999, I was the Manager for the Resource Conservation and Recovery (“RCRA”) Permits Management Program for the NMED Hazardous & Radioactive Materials Bureau.
  3. I am completely familiar with the state and federal RCRA requirements for public participation in the State of New Mexico and the federal RCRA permitting and enforcement procedures for hazardous waste facilities. I have conducted risk assessments for radioactive and hazardous waste. I have special training in nuclear waste geochemistry.
  4. For the reasons stated below, I oppose the approval of Corrective Action Complete for the MWL.
  5. During the period of 1997-98, I began meeting with Walter Cox at Sandia to determine the MWL wastes by type, volume, and location. I went into the building in Technical Area V that contained the ACRR.
  6. Cox never informed me about nuclear meltdown experiments that had been performed at Sandia in the Annular Core Research Reactor (ACRR). Mr. Cox may have mentioned canisters but nothing about any relationship to experiments or the use of sodium as a coolant. I was also unaware that Sandia had disposal sheets for the MWL.
  7. In a September 11, 1997 Notice of Denial for the MWL Phase 2 RCRA Facility Investigation sent to Sandia under my signature, in Comment #7, the NMED Hazardous & Radioactive Materials Bureau, recognized high surface level readings of radioactivity that exceeded background radiation levels by several times in Pits SP-4, SP-35, and SP-36. The Bureau suggested removal of the radioactive/mixed waste to another location.
  8. At the time of the issuance of the 9/1997 Notice of Denial, the NMED Hazardous & Radioactive Materials Bureau was completely unaware of four Sandia management memoranda written during the period February 1997 to April 1998. I have read the four internal Sandia management memos from the period February 20, 1997 to November 20, 1998. There is a pathway from Sandia’s receipt of fresh and spent fuel pins that were made into experimental packages, irradiated in the ACRR and with canisters containing metallic sodium and the melted or vaporized fuel being placed into pits 35 and 36. The Hot Cell Facility was used to cut up and conduct “post-mortem” examinations of some of the experiments and the resulting debris containing Uranium-235 and multiple fission products that were disposed of in the MWL. The memos describe the use of drilling rigs and a crane for placement of the canisters in pits and trenches. The four memoranda progress from concern for:
  • the dangerous characteristics of high levels of radiation combined with metallic sodium disposed in canisters in the MWL pits and trenches, and is a characteristic waste under the regulations identified as D003.  Reactive in common terms is (explosive)


40 CFR§ 261.23

    Characteristic of reactivity.

  • A solid waste exhibits the characteristic of reactivity if a representative sample of the waste has any of the following properties:

    (1) It is normally unstable and readily undergoes violent change without detonating.

    (2) It reacts violently with water.

    (3) It forms potentially explosive mixtures with water…..

    (7) It is readily capable of detonation or explosive decomposition or reaction at  

          standard temperature and pressure.


  • to an analysis of leaving the canisters in the MWL for consideration of the high cost of removal,
  • the difficulty of design of special containment and storage, remaining on the Site Treatment Plan indefinitely, and
  • with the plan to simply leave the canisters in place with long term monitoring and institutional controls.
  1. The February 20, 1997 Jerry Peace memo describes the placement of additional canisters in “small diameter holes drilled in the bottom of trenches.” The locations of the trenches for these burials and the contents of the canisters are not described.
  2. High-Level Waste is any highly radioactive material that requires permanent isolation. High-level radioactive wastes are the highly radioactive materials produced as a byproduct of the reactions that occur inside nuclear reactors.  According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

Because of their highly radioactive fission products, high-level waste and spent fuel must be handled and stored with care. Since the only way radioactive waste finally becomes harmless is through decay, which for high-level wastes can take hundreds of thousands of years, the wastes must be stored and finally disposed of in a way that provides adequate protection of the public for a very long time.

Source: http://www.nrc.gov/waste/high-level-waste.html

  1. The four Sandia memoranda confirm that High-Level Nuclear Mixed waste containing metallic sodium was disposed of in canisters in the MWL. Canisters from meltdown experiments could not be readily examined due to the reactivity of metallic sodium. Sandia did not provide any of the four memos to me during that period. The memos clearly describe Sandia concerns for canisters in pits 35 and 36 that contain metallic sodium. Metallic sodium can cause fires in the presence of moisture and poses potential risk for fire ignition at the MWL.
  2. I have also had the opportunity to review many of the Radioactive and Toxic Material Disposal sheets that were obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request. I have reviewed the disposal sheets along with the four memoranda.  The disposal sheets show evidence of Uranium-235 and multiple fission products and metallic sodium disposal in the MWL. The many disposal sheets showing U-235 and multiple fission products is evidence of the material being irradiated in a nuclear reactor. Several of the actual experiments are identified by acronyms in the disposal sheets – TRAN, EEOS, MP (melt Progression), PBE (Power Burst Experiments),FD (Fuel Disruption), and Debris Bed experiments. Without knowledge of the meltdown experiments and lacking the actual disposal sheets, it would be impossible for the regulator, and much less the public, to know that HLMW was being disposed of by Sandia in the MWL.
  3. The combination of the high levels of radiation and metallic sodium, the Sandia 1997-98 four memoranda, and the disposal sheets lead me to the conclusion that High Level Nuclear Mixed Waste was disposed of in the MWL and that Sandia was not forthcoming with any documentation of the High-Level Mixed Waste. As an administrator for the Hazardous and Radioactive Materials Bureau, had I known of the memoranda and disposal sheets I would never have allowed Sandia to obtain Corrective Action Complete for what constitutes the disposal of High-Level Nuclear Mixed Waste in the MWL.
  4. As a former regulator, I know that it is not permissible under state or federal law to dispose of High-Level Nuclear Mixed Waste in the MWL’s shallow, unlined pits and trenches. Deep geologic disposal is required for the High-Level Nuclear Mixed waste in the MWL. The placement of a dirt cover over radionuclides that will remain toxic to human health for many millennia cannot qualify in any manner as a legitimate corrective action that is protective of human health. Since no liner exists beneath the MWL pits and trenches to keep wastes from migrating to groundwater, the installation of a dirt cover above the wastes is absolutely irrelevant and completely ineffective.
  5. Sandia was able to avoid a NMED denial of their plan for corrective action of a dirt cover by not being forthcoming about the presence of High Level Nuclear Mixed Waste in the MWL. Sandia has incorrectly portrayed the MWL as being a low-level mixed waste landfill. While there is much low-level mixed waste in the MWL, the four Sandia memoranda and the Radioactive and Toxic Material Disposal sheets paint an entirely different picture of the MWL contents.  
  6. There is a very large amount of radioactivity at the MWL including annual releases of tritium and radon gas to the air. PCBs, and solvents such as Toluene, PCE, TCE are present in the MWL.  RCRA metals were disposed of in the MWL including cadmium, copper, vanadium, cobalt, zinc, and beryllium and are hazardous constituents for groundwater as specified in 20 NMAC 4.1.  Thallium and thorium were detected.  High detections of nitrate were in the groundwater. Nickel was detected in Mixed Waste Landfill Monitoring Well 1 (MW1) and later exceeded EPA maximum contaminant limit for drinking water.  One hundred-nineteen (119) barrels of Plutonium contaminated waste is in the MWL.  Huge quantities of depleted uranium are in the MWL.  Human health and ecological risks from these contaminants were inadequately evaluated.  Many of the contaminants will remain dangerous for tens of thousands of years.
  7. During the period of operation of the MWL from 1959 to December 1988. Interim Status is statutory awarded; if a facility is in operation on the date that process or waste is brought under regulatory jurisdiction that process/waste automatically has Interim Status. In order to retain Interim Status the Facility Owner/Operator must file a Part A Permit Application within 180 days of the effective date of the regulations identifying that waste management activity.  Sandia did not file the required Part A within the required 180 day period. as was required by RCRA.  40 CFR § 270.1(b).  The MWL was not listed on a Part A or Part B application and operated in violation of federal and state law.  In September of 1986, Sandia had not filed the necessary paperwork with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the New Mexico Environment Department to retain interim status for the MWL.  Interim status terminates for facilities that fail to comply with the applicable provisions of 40 CFR §§ 270.73(a) through (g), which establish deadlines for the submission of permit applications.  Sandia missed what we call the “drop-dead date” by which date they had to file a Part A application for declaring hazardous waste operations at the MWL.  The MWL thus lost interim status.  Because the MWL lost interim status and was a regulated unit receiving waste after the effective date of July 26, 1982, for landfills, the MWL must then close under the requirements of 40 CFR § 264 Subpart F and G.
  8. Under interim status closure, 40 CFR § 265, there can be little or no chance of release from the unit. When a unit has lost interim status it must close under the more stringent 40 CFR § 264 standards. Under 40 CFR § 264.112 closure, there must be a description of all the steps needed to remove or decontaminate all hazardous waste residues and soils and a schedule set forth.  Post-closure permits apply to owners and operators of surface impoundments, landfills, land treatment units, and waste piles that received waste after July 26, 1982, or that certified closure after January 26, 1983, unless they demonstrate closure by removal pursuant to § 270.1(c)(5) and (6).  Sandia did not file a post-closure permit application for the MWL.
  9. Once again the MWL obtained interim status under RCRA when mixed waste was brought under RCRA Regulatory Authority in 1986. Once again Sandia National Laboratory failed to identify the Mixed Waste Landfill as an operating unit within the required time limit of 180 days by filing an amended Part A Application listing the MWL.
  10. Under the provisions of RCRA all Hazardous Waste Management Units are Solid Waste Management Units by definition. In 1993 the EPA designated the MWL as a Solid Waste Management Unit (“SWMU”) that required Corrective Action. To my knowledge, there was no awareness by the EPA that the MWL contained High-Level Nuclear Mixed waste disposal from nuclear meltdown experiments conducted in the ACRR. The designation as a SWMU in need of corrective action was based on the indication of a release of hazardous constituents past the point of compliance (the horizontal and vertical boundaries)of the unit.  Notwithstanding, Phase 1 and 2 RCRA Facility Investigations under corrective action were required to be performed for the MWL under a modification to Module IV of the Sandia Hazardous Waste Permit. 
  11. On September 11, 1997, as manager of the RCRA program, I denied a request from Sandia National Laboratories’ for the Mixed Waste Landfill to receive a “No Further Action” status. The MWL was and is not qualified or eligible to receive that NFA status because it is a “regulated unit that has had releases of waste and/or waste byproducts.” By legal definition under RCRA, owners and operators of landfills that received waste after July 26, 1982 are regulated units. (40 CFR § 264.90(a)(2)).  As a regulated unit, I required that Sandia obtain a post-closure permit for the MWL facility, unless closure by removal of the wastes was demonstrated.  (20 NMAC 4.1, Subpart IX, 40 CFR § 270.1(c).  Sandia did not submit a closure plan or a post-closure application to meet the requirements of 20 NMAC 4.1, Subpart VI, 40 CFR § 265.110-120 and § 265.310.  Sandia did not remove wastes from the MWL.  In or about 2004, Sandia submitted a RCRA Class 3 modification request for the 1993 EPA Module IV for Corrective Action that resulted in a public hearing and then the 2005 Final Order. The Corrective Action request did not identify the presence of High-Level Mixed Nuclear waste.
  12. There have been releases from the MWL. These releases were identified in the 9/11/1997 Notice of Denial.  The release of RCRA metals and solvents in the MWL were described as a threat to groundwater along with discussion of the defective groundwater monitoring network.  The point of compliance for determining a release is defined as the bottom of the trench or pit and the vertical sides of the trench or pits. There are releases from the MWL of tritium, cesium, heavy metals and solvents.  Therefore, in order to comply with the 40 CFR § 264 standards for closure utilizing the current solid waste management unit corrective action, those releases must be remediated or removed, and Sandia has been recalcitrant in doing that.  NMED has been recalcitrant in ordering them to meet the requirements of the regulations to remediate the releases. 
  13. Sandia did not conduct the groundwater monitoring necessary for a regulated unit to comply with RCRA. (40 CFR § 264.91-100).  Sandia was repeatedly informed by the NMED and EPA Region 6 in the 1990s that the MWL groundwater monitoring well network was inadequate for detection of groundwater contamination.  The monitoring wells were improperly located to determine the groundwater flow direction and the hydraulic gradient.  Other features prevented the monitoring wells from providing reliable sampling data.  Corrosion was present and Bentonite clay was used in drilling the wells so that evidence of contamination was hidden. The 11/1997 NOD Comment 37 stated:
  14. Mixed Waste Landfill Groundwater Monitoring Well MW4 was installed to 1) resolve uncertainty as to the hydraulic gradient, 2) the flow direction and 3) whether 270,000 gallons of radioactive reactor waste water dumped into Trench D had reached the groundwater. MW4 was installed 22 feet too deep below the water table compared to the other monitoring wells to measure the groundwater flow direction or hydraulic gradient.  The upper and lower well screens of MW4 were not sealed off from each other by a packer for over a year and radioactive waste water may have drained to the aquifer. 
  15. Pumping tests for the monitoring wells failed and could not determine hydraulic conductivity and transmissivity.
  16. Monitoring wells MW5 and MW6 were ordered to be installed. MW6 was installed too distant from the MWL to meet the RCRA point of compliance requirement (40 CFR § 264.95) and installed too deep to resolve the issues of hydraulic conductivity and groundwater flow direction in the fine-grained sediments.  MW5 was also installed too distant and its well screen was installed across both the fine-grained strata and the deeper Ancient Rio Grande strata which violates the RCRA requirement against cross contamination.
  17. The evidence of contamination to the groundwater that was indicated from the improperly located and inadequate groundwater well monitoring network was ignored in the December 2004 public hearings that considered and approved the evapo-transpirative (dirt) cover remedy for the MWL. Witnesses for Sandia and the NMED testified that there was “no evidence of contamination to the groundwater.” Nevertheless, the unreliable, unrepresentative groundwater monitoring data from defective groundwater monitoring wells was used.  This was fabricated, result-oriented evidence that can now only be remedied by consideration of excavation of the MWL, safe storage or disposal of the High-Level Nuclear Mixed waste.
  18. There is much new evidence confirming the defective MWL groundwater monitoring identified by the NMED in the 1990s. Defective groundwater monitoring wells continue to the present. A “Confidential” Oversight Report written by EPA Region 6 hydrologists and a geologist recalls many of the deficiencies of the earlier 1994 EPA Region 6 Notice of Deficiency and the NMED 1997 denial and 1998 NOD.  This would include the need for additional groundwater monitoring wells to be placed both to the north and south of the MWL.  New technical information since the 2005 Final Order decision for the MWL also includes the 2006 TechLaw, Inc. report and an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 6 Oversight Report (2007) and EPA Office of Inspector General Report (April 14, 2010).  These reports chronicle technical deficiencies for the MWL cover construction, defective groundwater monitoring, refusal to provide information, violation of agency procedures and denial of public participation. Although Mr. William Moats of the NMED received an email in 2007 about the defective groundwater monitoring network, that information was not released to the public during Sandia’s development of Fate and Transport Modeling.
  19. The deficiencies in groundwater monitoring makes further delay inappropriate to not consider excavation of the MWL.
  20. The refusal of NMED to enforce and Sandia to comply with Condition 5 of the Final Order is further evidence of failure to comply with RCRA corrective action for the MWL.
  21. I have read the 2005 Final Order for the MWL in its entirety. Corrective Action cannot be considered complete without completion of evaluation of the feasibility of excavation of the MWL every five years. Sandia has not performed a five year re-evaluation for excavation.  The language of the Final Order is very specific and unambiguous that Sandia shall perform a feasibility study for excavation and other matters “every five years.”  The requirement is mandatory for compliance by Sandia and for enforcement by the NMED.  As a former regulator for the RCRA permits program, I conclude that Condition 5 cannot be read in relation to the other terms and conditions in the Final Order so as to allow the interpretation that a delay of any length of time would be possible.  The delay of Condition 5 for any reason is a violation of the Final Order and of the 1993 Module IV of the Sandia RCRA facility permit.  Any change in the compliance dates of that order that makes compliance less stringent than the order is a Class III Modification to the permit under the regulations and requires the public involvement process.
  22. The Class 3 2005 Final Order was thereby modified without any public participation whatsoever, in violation of RCRA. By regulatory sleight of hand, the public was denied any right to participation in the decision making process required by RCRA for permit modifications.  (40 CFR § 270.42 -- Permit modifications at the request of the permittee.) 
  23. There are releases of dangerous radioactive and hazardous waste contaminants from the unlined MWL pits and trenches. In 1997 and 1998, the Hazardous and Radioactive Waste Bureau (now called the Hazardous Waste Bureau) respectively issued a Letter of Denial and a Notice of Deficiencies for Sandia’s RCRA Phase 2 Facility Investigation.  Records of the types and amounts of waste and the locations of these wastes disposed of at the MWL were never complete and require closure by removal. Groundwater monitoring was wholly inadequate.  Because the site characterization was inadequate, the results of the risk assessment might not be valid and institutional controls would be required.  The Final Order provision for 5 year reviews is a form of institutional control to excavate the MWL.
  24. The fact that Condition 5 is in the Final Order is a strong indicator that the radioactive and hazardous wastes in the MWL were not intended to be left under a dirt cover. Clean closure (closure by removal) is required for the MWL as a regulated unit that lost interim status not once, but twice and is now known to have received High-Level Nuclear Mixed waste has had releases of hazardous waste and waste byproducts.  



I hereby swear under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America and the State of New Mexico that the above statement is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.



Dated this ___ day of ________, 2015.



Dr. Robert S. (Stu) Dinwiddie, Ph.D.

P.O. Box 308

Rowe, NM 87562

Telephone: 505-470-3673