September 15, 2016

Ms. Joyce Connery, Chairman

Ms. Jessie Hill Roberson, Vice Chairman

Mr. Sean Sullivan, Board Member

Mr. Daniel J. Santos, Board Member

Mr. Bruce Hamilton, Board Member


Before the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board

Request for DNFSB Board Action: Asserting DNFSB Jurisdiction for the Sandia National Laboratories Mixed Waste Landfill


Citizen Action New Mexico appreciates the opportunity to have personally met with the DNFSB in 2016. In March 2010 Citizen Action New Mexico sent a letter to the DNFSB regarding lax safety culture at Sandia National Laboratories nuclear facilities including the Annular Core Research Reactor, the Sandia Pulse Reactor, the Auxiliary Hot Cell Facility and the Mixed Waste Landfilli. In January 2016 Citizen Action and Dr. Eric Nuttall identified concerns for metallic explosions and more fires at Sandia’s Mixed Waste Landfill. Citizen Action and Dr. Nuttall presented extensive evidence that the MWL is a national defense related disposal facility and requested DNFSB to take jurisdiction.ii

DNFSB should take jurisdiction of the MWL as a national defense related facility, but previously may have lacked the disposal records for information to investigate the defense related type of atomic bomb waste disposal from the Nevada Test Site, Kwajalein, Inhalation Toxicology Research Institute (ITRI), thousands of neutron triggers, and Sandia lab weapon experiments. Citizen Action sent numerous Radioactive and Toxic Material Disposal sheets to the DNFSB General Counsel Eric Fox to prove the defense related aspects of the MWL. In the event of explosions and fires at the MWL, atomic bomb waste will be spread onto a major nuclear weapons air base and into Albuquerque with a population of 800,000. Over 400 of over 5,000+ disposal sheets are marked as containing “SS” material, Sandia code for highly enriched bomb grade Uranium-235 used for military experiments. The canisters containing melted fuel rods/pins mixed from nuclear reactor meltdown experiments were inseparably combined with from 2.5 to 5 kg of metallic sodium as coolant.

In January 2016 Citizen Action identified to the DNFSB concerns for explosions and fires at Sandia’s Mixed Waste Landfill that threaten all of Albuquerque from the past dumping of metallic sodium wastes and other incompatible chemical wastes. Such an event at the MWL is not only possible, but probable. Explosive and incendiary events occurred at the Beatty, Nevada dumpsite on October 18, 2015iii and spread radiation to Las Vegas, NViv and as far north as St. George, Utah.

The cause of the explosions and fires was metallic sodium coming in contact with water through a leaking dirt cover during a heavy rainstorm. The potential for such an event at the Sandia MWL should be more than apparent except that the lack of a safety culture exists for the NNSA, Sandia and the New Mexico Environment Department when it comes to requiring protection of public health and safety that might halt corporate bullying and the singular consideration for corporate profits. The necessary oversight for the high risks of the MWL in order to prevent a major nuclear accident is not in place.

The NMED denies that it has authority over the radioactive portion of mixed waste that includes highly radioactive nuclear waste that should be put into deep geologic disposal. Sandia/NNSA/DOE, despite its own 1997-98 memoranda and disposal records, denies the presence of canisters containing metallic sodium and highly radioactive material that requires permanent isolation. In the RCRA Facility Investigation Sandia even claimed sodium in the MWL is an “essential nutrient.” More recently, Mike Mitchell, a contractor for Sandia, admitted to the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Advisory Board that metallic sodium is in the MWL but that it’s in the “dry areas” of the 2.6 acre dump. Pray tell us, where are those dry areas located after 204,000 gallons of nuclear reactor waste water was disposed of in Trench D, storm waters raged into the open, unlined pits and trenches of the dump for decades destroying protective berms in 2006-07, 5,000 gallons of water was used to extinguish a uranium fire, and 5 ft of water in one trench was pumped into another trench?

The history of the lax Sandia safety culture continues with explosions and fires. The record for recent fires from Sandia operations includes: a lithium fire and explosion at the Plasma Materials Test Facility that lifted the roof, wrecked walls and could have killed two workersv; lithium battery events; a fire at the Sandia Z-machine; a fire at the Kauai facility; and, inappropriate transport of explosive material. vi These incidents have not been made public to any extent. There was substantial disposal of lithium as well as metallic sodium in the MWL. Two uranium chip fires previously occurred at the MWL in the mid-1970s. There was the mysterious, unexplained disposal of a fire truck in the MWL emitting 1800 Ci of radiation. Sandia’s MWL inventory records presented to regulators are filled with holes especially for metallic sodium, mercury, fuel pins and fuel rods, amounts of plutonium, and chlorinated solvents. TCE and PCE are already 50 ft from groundwater. Groundwater monitoring is defectivevii and the dirt cover fails to meet any Resource Conservation and Recovery Act requirements under Subtitle C.

There is no reason for the public to have any trust or confidence in the NNSA, Sandia management or the NMED handling of the risk for the MWL. The leaking of the Chemical Waste Landfill into the groundwater, along with billions of gallons of contaminated water at other Sandia Albuquerque facilities has already occurred. An explosion of underground waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant occurred. Compare that highly engineered multi-billion dollar facility with the unlined pits and trenches of the MWL and what can be expected to occur? The Pueblo of Isleta that is not far from the MWL has public health and environmental concerns.

A May 12, 2014 DNFSB reportviii indicates a continuing “significant number of issues” with NNSA and Sandia self-assessment and failure to adhere to DOE Orders 422.1 and 433.1 for operations and safety of its nuclear facilities in Technical Area 5. A November 5, 2015 report found fission products in the ACRR poolix. A May 15, 2015 report found the exceedance of criticality safety limits for materials packaged in the Sandia hot cell facility that were sent to WIPP.x

Now we are informed of continuing risk and lack of fire safety at Sandia in the DNFSB March 2016 reportxi, which indicates that there are no fire suppression systems for the Sandia Pulse Reactor and that criticality risks exist in the event of a fire and attempted suppression.

The 3/2016 report further states:

The most recent SNL fire hazard analysis for the facility, dated November 2012, included a recommendation that the facility seek an exemption for continuing to omit an engineered FSS. Currently, the facility has neither a FSS nor a Department of Energy (DOE) exemption.

The March 2016 letter goes on to state:

Both SNL and the DOE are now working toward agreement on a path forward to improve the fire protection envelop at the SPRF.

People die, are injured, and get cancer from Department of Energy facilities. The taxpayer pays out billions because safety is ignored at these nuclear facilities. When does it stop? When does the public actually get heard in all of this, not just heard, but responded to with real prevention other than another report that does nothing except claim “lessons learned” and gather dust?

How is it after the DNFSB critique of the lack of Sandia nuclear safety going back to 1996xii, that 20 years later we have continuing violations of not just the safety culture for Sandia (Integrated Safety Management Implementation February 26, 2013), but outright violations of Title 10, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 830 (10 CFR 830), Nuclear Safety Management, and Part 835 (10 CFR 835), Occupational Radiation Protection?

Is the public supposed to experience “accidental explosions and fires” after years of safety concerns that have been raised on an ongoing basis? From a public perspective the NNSA disregards safety enforcement and Lockheed Martin/Sandia should shut down these unsafe facilities that operate with impunity in violation of law and worker and public safety. The MWL should be excavated and the wastes safely stored.

Using legal sleight of hand, NMED, NNSA and Sandia managed to avoid the requirement in the 2005 Final Order for the MWL that requires review of the feasibility of excavation of the MWL “every five years.” Citizen Action believes that the potential for explosions and fires, in light of Beatty, NV should not await further evasion. No emergency drills for such an event have ever been performed for the MWL and no specific emergency response plan exists for the MWL.

Respectfully submitted,

Dave McCoy, Executive Director

Citizen Action New Mexico

PO Box 4276

Albuquerque, NM 87196

505 262-1862

i -- Citizen Action letter -- DNFSB concerns for ACRR safety. -- DNFSB Staff reports that some safety systems may not be reliable enough to perform their safety functions. Issues with quality assurance and software exist.

ii See January 21, 2016 letter sent to DNFSB Chairperson Joyce Connery attached to this letter. The 1/21/2016 letter was not posted on the DNFSB website.

ix [Note: The fission products found in the ACRR reactor pool are the same type of products formerly disposed of as resins in the MWL.]

x “The drums, currently in interim storage at the AHCF, contain pieces of mixed oxide fuel rods irradiated in the Annular Core Research Reactor (ACRR) and were repackaged in 2014 as part of AHCF Campaign 12.” [Note: these may be the same types of fuel rods/pins that were formerly disposed of in the MWL during many nuclear reactor meltdown experiments and Space Nuclear Auxiliary Program performed in the ACRR. The fact that this material was sent to WIPP is further confirmation that the more than 70 fuel rods/pins disposed of in the MWL are also national defense waste and upon excavation could be processed and sent to WIPP.]