Citizen Action New Mexico Rebuttal of Testimony of Department of Energy/Sandia/Michael Mitchell

The Department of Energy and Sandia National Laboratories (DOE/Sandia) have concealed the extreme danger and uniqueness of the Mixed Waste Landfill (MWL) as a Mixed High-level Nuclear Waste repository.  The MWL is a 2.6 acre nuclear weapons legacy era dump with unlined pits and trenches above Albuquerque’s drinking water aquifer.  The Corrective Action of a dirt cover is not appropriate for the MWL because federal law requires deep geological disposal for Mixed High-level Nuclear Waste.  DOE/Sandia has presented the MWL as being only a Low-level Mixed Waste Landfill.  That is incorrect information that cannot be allowed to stand under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  

DOE/Sandia demonstrates a pattern and practice of disposing of High-level radioactive waste in the MWL without reporting such disposal to regulators or to the public.  During the 1960s the Sandia Engineering Research Facility (SERF) conducted reactor transient behavior that was for testing the safety of Space Nuclear Auxiliary Power (SNAP) fuel rods used in nuclear space rockets.  Numerous SNAP fuel rods were disposed of in Hole #18 in the Classified Section of the MWL on 5/11/1967.  There is no reporting record in the Sandia Inventory of the disposal of the SNAP fuel rods.  The reactor transient testing performed by Sandia created High-Level Nuclear Waste that was clearly placed in the MWL in Hole #18. (Report of Expended SS Material Nos. 273 and 274 dated 5/18/67).  See Exhibit #13 attached hereto.

  • Sheet 5/18/67 for #273 – Hole #18 Snap Fuel Rods; Fuel Rods; Cylinder C-7, 1 lot of SNAP-10A pieces, Cylinder 267-3, Snap Rods 820-9, 188-7; 256-1; Fuel Rods 266-5, 213-1, 213-3, 213-6; 10 Fuel Rods.  
  • Sheet 5/18/67 #274 -- 2 Rods (AIC-17); 5 Rods (AIC-18); 2 Rods (AIC-19); 25 discs.

Reactor transient testing involves “placing fuel or material into the core of a nuclear reactor and subjecting it to short bursts of intense, high-power radiation.”  Transient testing creates nuclear fission of the Uranium-235 resulting in the production of fission products and high levels of radiation.  The SNAP fuel rods consisted of 93% enriched U-235.  SNAP-10A was an experimental nuclear reactor launched into space in 1965. The Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power Program (SNAP) reactor was developed under the SNAPSHOT program overseen by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.  Atomics International had primary responsibility for safety, while Sandia National Laboratories was responsible for the Aerospace Safety Independent Review and conducted many of the safety tests. Before launch was permitted, proof had to be obtained that under all circumstances the launch of the reactor would not pose a serious threat.



Spent fuel elements (rods) and cuttings were routinely disposed of in the MWL. Examples are:

  • Sheet 1/12/68 SER [Sandia Engineering Reactor] – SPR-II  Miscellaneous Contaminated Waste + Ends from spent SER Fuel Elements, 15 plastic bags, Hole #18
  • Sheet 7/25/69 SER [Sandia Engineering Reactor] Ends of Fuel elements (Spent) Hole #15
  • 6/5/70 SER - Fuel Processing for Shipment Fuel Element Ends – Cut-off prior to shipment Elements Nos. #47, 46, 21 and #7
  • 7/17/70 SER - Ends from fuel elements #26, #29, #30, and #60
  • 1/7/71 SER - Area V Bldg. 6580 Rm. 212.  SER fuel element ends from cutting operation on F-6, F-27 & F-62 plus 4 previous elements processed last summer. Hole #25
  • 1/21/71 SER - Ends from fuel elements – processed for shipment to CPP, Idaho. 6 sets of ends including those from F-52, F-53, F-56 and F-38 which was cut on 1/20/71. Reads ~2r/hr @ 2ft & rather than toss into trench “Delta” will deposit in Hole #25.
  • 1/15/71 Origin of waste 6580 Fuel ends from spent SER fuel. Buried in classified hole due to high activity.
  • 1/28/71 SER - 1) Experimental fuel element E-1. 2) Box ends from F-33, F-34, F-37 and F-40. Package reads ~2r/hr @ 2ft & should be buried in classified Hole #25
  • 2/8/71 SER - Box ends cut from fuel elements F-61, F-57, F-44, F-51, prior to shipment to processing plant. Degree of radiation hazard is such that disposal in classified Hole #25 rather than in Trench is indicated.

The MWL Inventory for Hole #18, presented by Sandia fails to reveal any disposal of the SNAP fuel rods shown by Report #273 and #274, but does indicate reactor fuel element ends, as follows:

PIT 18: Pu-238 contaminated paper, gloves, small equipment, components, wire, and sockets; 12 each spark gap tubes: 7 each 10 uCi Ra-226/Be sources in a lead container encapsulated in concrete-filled 55-gallon drum; Pu-238 contaminated vacuum pump; radioactive rock; electrical cables from junction box; reactor fuel element ends (5 rem/hr on contact); neutron generator tubes: Pershing missile test debris; DU-contaminated weapons components; 155 mm gun projectile with a Sb-124 source: 762 kg DU: 45 Ci tritium. (Emphasis supplied).

The MWL contains Mixed High-level Waste from nuclear reactor meltdown experiments conducted in the Annular Core Research Reactor (ACRR) at Sandia’s Technical Area V and also nuclear weapons experimental and atomic bomb waste.  

The installation of a dirt cover is simply irrelevant above this toxic mixed stew of long-lived radioactive and chemical poisons, will not be protective of human health and the environment, and will remain a threat that must be monitored in perpetuity.  Corrective Action Complete should be denied and the MWL should be excavated for clean closure.  The MWL should provide a Closure Plan and Post-closure Plan as required by RCRA.  To leave Mixed High-level Waste in shallow, unlined pits and trenches above an aquifer is nothing short of criminal.

DOE/Sandia/Mr. Mitchell’s testimony (p. 5) attempts to limit the scope of this public hearing to the singular issue as to whether the corrective action conditions set forth in the 2005 Final Order have been satisfied.  Given the presence of Mixed High-level Waste a corrective action complete decision that would leave such waste in place in shallow pits and trenches is not permitted under federal law.  The dirt cover, no matter how well constructed, cannot be protective of human health and the environment.  A true picture of the MWL cannot be achieved because of the failure of DOE/Sandia to disclose the nature of the Mixed High-Level Nuclear Waste disposed of in the MWL.  DOE/Sandia/Mitchell fail to comply with the duty to fully disclose all relevant facts and are also misrepresenting facts about the MWL.  40 CFR § 270.43 (a)(2) sets forth those duties. The provision of full information would have justified the application of different permit conditions at the time of issuance of the Final Order.  40 CFR 270.41 (a) Causes for modification (2) Information.  

DOE/Sandia have not acknowledged the existence of the Space Nuclear Auxiliary Power (SNAP) disposal of fuel rods, the nuclear reactor melt down experiments, the use of fresh and irradiated fuel pins, the melted fuel pins, the presence of metallic sodium inseparably combined with the melted fuel pins, disposal of melted fuel pins in canisters in the MWL, the cutting operations for fuel pins and debris disposal, and the lack of protection of the public from the Mixed High-Level Waste.  

DOE/Sandia have refused to acknowledge the court expanded definition of High-Level Waste.  High-Level Waste in addition to reprocessing of spent fuel also includes “other  highly  radioactive  material  that  the  Commission,  consistent  with  existing  law,  determines  by  rule requires permanent isolation.”

Sandia Report SAND 2010-6335 states:

Traditionally, the NRC and DOE have used the first aqueous extraction as the point of generation of HLW. However, a Natural Resources Defense Council lawsuit has prompted a re-evaluation.  The federal court ruling focused on the word “including” which means an example and cannot be read to be limiting.  In  other  words,  HLW  waste  is  any  "highly  radioactive  material  resulting  from  reprocessing;"  it  is  not limited to material derived from the liquid waste of extraction.  The lawsuit resulted in a provision in the Defense Authorization Act (in §3116) to provide some flexibility.   

DOE/Sandia ignores the DOE definition of High-Level Waste provided for in DOE Order 435.1:



High-level waste is the highly radioactive waste material resulting from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.  High-level waste includes

  • liquid waste produced directly in reprocessing;
  • any solid material derived from such liquid waste that contains fission products; and
  • other highly radioactive material that requires permanent isolation. (Emphasis supplied).

DOE/Sandia pays no attention to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission definition for High-Level Waste as “radioactive wastes [that] are the highly radioactive materials produced as a byproduct of the reactions that occur inside nuclear reactors.”

Mr. Mitchell’s testimony attempts to minimize the hazards posed to human health and the environment by exclusion of facts that contradict the DOE/Sandia goal-oriented intention to 1) portray the dirt cover as adequate and 2) avoid excavation of Mixed High-level Waste.  Mr. Mitchell neglects to provide any information regarding the disposal of SNAP fuel rod waste, Mixed High-Level Waste from nuclear meltdown experiments, nuclear weapons test experiments and disposal of liquid chlorinated solvents in massive quantities in the unlined pits and trenches of the MWL.  Mr. Mitchell fails to present that chlorinated solvents disposed of in the nearby Chemical Waste Landfill leaked to the groundwater and that a dirt cover could have done nothing to prevent that occurrence. The Chemical Waste Landfill required excavation.  

Sandia management memoranda (CANM Exhibit 5 a-d) set forth the disposal of canisters containing metallic sodium that were used in NRC nuclear reactor meltdown experiments.  The Sandia management memoranda describe the disposal of 1) four canisters in Pits 35 and 36 and 2) canisters disposed of in small diameter, vertical holes drilled in the bottom of trenches.  The memoranda were copied to DOE personnel. The four management memoranda became the basis for the DOE/Sandia decision in 1997-98 to conceal the presence of Mixed High-level Waste and leave canisters with high level nuclear waste mixed with metallic sodium in the MWL Pits 35 and 36 to achieve No Further Action (NFA) status. The decision was and remains a means to avoid (CANM  Ex. 5 a-d):

  • Complete characterization of the wastes and the 90 day removal clock under RCRA;
  • excavation and its cost;
  • designing, developing and building custom shielded storage containers to maintain radiation levels at an acceptable level while in storage;
  • the MWL being placed on the Sandia Site Treatment Plan.

Highly reactive (explosive) metallic sodium (Na-22) was disposed of with multiple fission products that resulted from irradiation in the Sandia Annular Core Research Reactor (ACRR) nuclear reactor meltdown experiments. (Sheet 11/9/79 shows the presence of Na-22, Sr-90, I-129, Cs-137, Eu-152, and Ba-133.  Barium and metallic sodium are both RCRA regulated metals).  For further metallic sodium references see CANM Ex 1, pp. 13-14; 22-25.

Mr. Mitchell ignores the many Radioactive and Toxic Disposal sheets that show disposal of waste from numerous nuclear reactor meltdown tests performed in the ACRR that contained multiple fission products (MFP), Uranium-235, and metallic sodium.  There are over a thousand declassified disposal sheets from nuclear weapons tests. However, since the disposals were originally classified material, it is not possible to know much about the types and levels of radioactive and toxic materials that were disposed.  Additionally, many of the sheets are hardly, if at all, readable or are nothing but serial numbers.   

Clearly, the regulator, the public and this hearing officer are not being presented a true picture of the hazard and toxicity of wastes in the MWL and the threat to human health and the environment.  The Sandia management memoranda (Ex 5 a-d) were the starting place of Sandia’s cover up for Mixed High-Level Nuclear Waste and the efforts to avoid excavation and seek only limited corrective action that is legally improper for Mixed High-level Waste disposal in unlined shallow pits and trenches above Albuquerque’s aquifer.  Deep geologic disposal with permanent isolation is required by law for Mixed High-level Waste.

It is significant that not once in the inventory sheets for the MWL (CANM Ex. 11)  provided in the Sandia 1996 RFI Report is there a single instance that reveals that the mixed radioactive and hazardous wastes came from the various meltdown experiments.  Yet the Radioactive and Toxic Waste Disposal sheets have numerous references showing the relationship to SNAP and the various NRC reactor meltdown experiments. That the nuclear meltdown experiments were performed in the ACRR is obvious from reading the minutes of the ACRR Committee Meetings held on the dates below (CANM Ex #14):

  • July 11, 1977 –Effective Equation of State (EEOS) and the Prompt Burst Excursions experiments discussed. Fuel pins and metallic sodium are being used in the experiments.
  • July 19, 1977 – PBE experiments – all three will contain sodium and will be maximum pulses.  Canisters will be used to house the experiments.
  • April 19, 1979 – Plan for the Fresh Fuel Disruption Experiments to be performed in the ACRR.  Pre-irradiated fuel experiments are planned in the future.
  • April 28, 1980 – Fuel Disruption Experiment Plan Renewal; Neutron Generator Experiment Plan; Report on State of Fission Products in Debris Bed Experiments (DBE).  DBE has four possible locations for fission products (after meltdown) 1. In the fuel pellets; 2. In the liquid sodium; 3. On the vessel walls; 4. In the cover gas.
  • August 31, 1981 –Request for permission for disassembly and decontamination of the EOS-2 experimental package. Procedures for dissolution of UO2 from selected sections of the “Tran” experiment were reviewed and approved.
  • April 10, 1984 – TRAN-II Annular Channel Experiment; Sandia Transient Axial Relocation (STAR) Experiment to investigate Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Loss of Flow accidents.  Experiment capsule of inner and outer canisters for fuel pins.
  • April 10, 1984 – DCC-1 Experiment Plan; STAR Experiment
  • September 18, 1984 – STAR with irradiated fuel and bundle of pins.  
  • October 11, 1984 –STAR Experiment using both  fresh and irradiated fuel pins
  • November 10, 1987 – ST-2 Experiment contains pre-irradiated fuel and, therefore, introduces some extraordinarily potential for radiation exposure.  Radiation levels as high as 100,000 milliRem/hour are anticipated.  

A problem in review of the Radioactive and Toxic Material Disposal sheets is that the acronyms for the meltdown experiments could not be known without further research that relates those experiments to the use of fresh and irradiated fuel pins. Thus, even the disposal sheets obscure the relationship of the reactor meltdown experiments with the disposal of Mixed High-level Waste in the MWL. The disposal sheets reference acronyms such as TRAN, DCC, FD, MP, EEOS and unexplained terminology such as “post mortems” “cutting and polishing operations.”  

The RTMD sheets give the dates of disposals and a correlation can be seen between the time that projects and experiments were performed and the period of disposal of wastes from the experiments and projects.  Only looking at the MWL Inventory (CANM Ex 11) cannot provide the chronological relationship between experiments and disposed items listed in the inventory especially during previous public hearings.  SNAP, TRAN, PBE, EEOS, etc. used Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) in fuel pins and fuel rods, exposed the HEU in Sandia nuclear reactors, created Mixed High-level Nuclear Waste and disposed of much of the waste in the MWL.  The disposal records demonstrate the historical precedent for Sandia’s ongoing disposal of fuel pins in the MWL pits and trenches. The disposal sheets show a chronological record for experiments and disposal of waste in the MWL proceeding from the 1960s into the 1980s.  

Sandia has done its best to hide the practice of Mixed High-level Nuclear Waste disposal in the MWL from the regulators and the public, but there is certainty that the practice was routine and ongoing. There are the actions by DOE/Sandia:

  • Sandia purging the MWL records from 1960-64;
  • Keeping the classification of disposal records as secret;
  • The secrecy about what went into the Classified section of the MWL;
  • The vagueness in descriptions of exactly what radionuclides and hazardous wastes were placed into polyethylene bags, boxes, drums, canisters, and other containers.  

There is the withholding of the full SAND report for Appendix G (CANM Ex 7). The major contribution of Sandia in reactor fuel testing for the SNAP project has been sanitized from any public records.  No SAND reports are available for the SNAP project, but the disposal sheets demonstrate that Sandia had fuel rods from the SNAP project and disposed of them in the MWL. There is the reliance on a known defective groundwater monitoring system to provide false data for the 2005 Final Order decision-making, the FT&M and Long-Term Maintenance and Monitoring Plan (LTMMP).  There is the deliberate avoidance of producing the five-year re-evaluation of the feasibility of excavation, the continued suitability of the dirt cover remedy and the defective groundwater monitoring.  All this choked off transparency about the MWL and the need for excavation.  

The fuel pins included irradiated pins and fresh pins.  The fuel pins came from commercial reactor locations in Mol, Belgium and were also manufactured at Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNL Battelle), Clinch River Breeder Reactor and the German Nuclear Research Center, KFK.  Some of the commercially manufactured fuel pins were previously irradiated in reactors such as the Belgian Reactor 3 (BR3). Some of the PNL fuel was irradiated at the EBR-II reactor at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratories (“INEEL”) now named Idaho National Laboratories, “INL”). The disposal sheets connect the meltdown experiments to the actual fuel pins, such as the PNL fuel pins and the BR3 fuel pins that were used in the nuclear reactor meltdown experiments.

  • (Sheet 10/30/80 cleanup materials from fuel pin operations, U-235, Fission Products, Activation Products;
  • Sheet 10/8/80 Cutting and preparation of U-235 fuel pins;
  • Sheet 12/22/81 debris of [fuel] pin cutting operations including pieces of cladding very highly contaminated, high radiation dose rates, U-235, fission products and by-products;
  • Sheet 12/2/81- cladding and associated parts from an old ACRR instrumented fuel element, U-235, 2.0 rem/hr;
  • Sheet 12/2/81- old test equipment and material used in the fuels testing program for ACRR fuel 1975-1978;
  • Sheet 12/5/81- scrap cladding and storage containers from operations on PNL [fuel pin] 11-18-B, high radiation levels of 1 rem/hr).  

In some instances, the wastes are described as coming from the names of the persons who performed the meltdown experiments. (Sheet 9/5/80 Weber Meltdown Excess Depleted Uranium-238, 1 cu ft)

Mr. Mitchell’s testimony (p. 5, L. 21) states that the estimated amount of Plutonium in the MWL is less than 1 gram (about the size of a BB).  Mr. Mitchell provides no scientific basis for such a statement. Moreover, Plutonium is highly toxic and must be permanently isolated because of its long half-life.  Below are some examples contained in the disposal sheets:

  • 4/25/1964 – Disposal of Sealed tins of Plutonium and Neptunium from Los Alamos National Laboratories
  • The disposal of 119 drums of Plutonium and Americium contaminated wastes from the Inhalation and Toxicology Research Institute (ITRI) and other sources such as the meltdown experiments and the nuclear wastes from atomic bomb experiments conducted at Sandia.
  • 3/2/67 Papers, gloves, small pieces of equipment contaminated with Pu-238
  • 5/11/67 Pu-238 contaminated waste 18 Poly bags, 30 cu ft
  • 8/4/67Pu-238 contaminated gloves, paper, Rags, etc., 6 poly bags
  • 2/8/68 – Plutonium-239 and -238 debris
  • 3/25/68 Scrap and cleaning material containing Pu-239, 50 cu ft
  • 4/4/68 Contained Pu-238, 27 poly bags
  • 4/8/68 Polonium-210, Pu-239
  • 6/20/68 – Expenditure and Disposal of Plutonium-238 Oxide Microspheres, .1/.1 Pu-238 (gram)
  • 6/20/68 Pu238 particle dissolved
  • 10/1/68 Miscellaneous Waste—plutonium contaminated
  • 12/10/68 Miscellaneous Pu Contaminated Waste, Poly bag
  • 1/3/69 Plutonium contaminated
  • 3/12/69 B-60 and 868 Po-210 and Pu-238
  • 6/26/69 Pu and Po cleaning material
  • 11/21/69 Items contaminated with Pu-238
  • 1/31/72 Cleaning waste 1  Poly Bag, 2 lbs Pu Hole# 25
  • 8/23/72 4 ea Vacuum Cleaner clogged and contaminated with, Tunnel dirt, (U238, Be, Pu-239 dust)  
  • (For more Pu-239 disposal, see for examples, RTMD sheets 3/29/74, 5/29/74, 6/7/82, 6/9/82).  
  • A Plutonium Arc Tunnel was buried containing 20 Plutonium spheres in 1968.  
  • Sheet 10 Mar. 1977- Plutonium-238 disposal took place.  .  
  • On August 4, 1977, 90 cu ft of Plutonium-238 contaminated waste was disposed.   
  • Sheet 7/13/83 - Eleven 55 gallon drums of Alpha waste (possibly Plutonium) took place.
  • Plutonium-contaminated nuclear-weapons-test debris was placed in the MWL disposal area. (CANM Ex. 5-O).

Mr. Mitchell fails to describe the disposal of Technetium-99 (TC-99) with a half-life of 211,000 years. “[B]ecause of its high mobility, high fission yield in nuclear energy production, long half-life, and moderate radiotoxicity, 99Tc is an element of intense concern for the environment.” See, The Geochemistry of Technetium: A Summary of the Behavior of an Artificial Element in the Natural Environment (December 2008) at p. 1.2  (See e.g., RTMD sheets 1/6/78, 3/28/78, 3/31/78, 2/19/79, 4/20/79, 10/19/83, 12/21/83). Tc-99 is present in the hundreds of tons of depleted uranium disposed of in the MWL. Mitchell does not describe the disposal of Uranium 235 with a half-life of 703.8 million years.  (Example, Sheet 1/30/78 and 1/27/82 - experiment components from post mortems; 12/18/81-experiment disassembly processes – 300 pounds U-235, fission products, and by-products;). Other examples of U-235 disposal:

  • 7/14/69 One bag of U-235 contaminated material

Mr. Mitchell’s testimony inaccurately reports that all liquid waste was solidified with the lone exception of reactor coolant water.  Numerous disposal sheets and interviews of Sandia employees demonstrate that was not the situation. Mr. Mitchell’s testimony (p. 6) asserts that no free liquids were disposed of in the MWL with the exception of 204,000 gallons of reactor coolant water.  According to a Sandia Site Health and Safety Plan Form 92-27, Sandia was disposing of liquid waste until 1975 (CANM Ex. 5 L):

“After 1975, SNL required liquid wastes to be solidified prior to disposal.  Before this time, unsolidified radioactive liquids, whether containerized or not, were disposed of in the MWL.”

  • 1/14/64 5 bottles oil
  • 4/9/64 Uranium solution/U and Np residue plastic bottle
  • 5/12/64 2 gallons oil
  • 5/3/65 Contaminated oil and Krypton item in 3 plastic bags
  • 1/13/67 Contaminated water-oil T[ritium] Plastic bottles
  • 2/7/67 Tritium contaminated water and Erbium tritide powder
  • 5/10/67 Spent SER (Sandia Engineering Reactor) Demineralizer Resin and H2O 9-55 gallon drums on pallets
  • 8/8/68 Tritium water, 1 plastic bottle
  • 1/7/69 Uranium contaminated solutions in poly jugs, 2 gallons
  • 7/14/69 One bottle of enriched U-235 in nitric acid solution
  • 11/30/70 1.8 gallons of Heavy Water containing 1.5 kilograms of Deuterium
  • Disposal sheet 9/27/1973 states that 1.5 gallons of clean up waste materials as liquid solvents with Uranium-235 contamination were disposed of in Trench “Bravo.”
  • 11/15/72 # 855 Toxic Machine Shop. Miscellaneous cleanup materials and waste oil. 6-5gallon cans and 4 plastic bags, 15 cu ft, 160 lbs Trench “Bravo”
  • On 3/20/1973 Liquid Scintillation Vials were disposed in Trench Bravo.  
  • On July 24, 1973 Cobalt-60 and Strontium-90 solutions were disposed of in glass ampules.  
  • On 3/19/73 150 lbs of waste including oil along with Tritium, Uranium and Thorium-232 was disposed of in Trench Bravo.  
  • On 7/24/1974 a unit heavily contaminated with Mercury waste was buried in Hole Number 28.
  • On 7/25/79 10.4 kg of Deuterium Heavy Water was disposed of, another 2.17 kg on 10/24/78 and 20 cu ft of heavy water on 1/8/80. All three liquid disposals were after 1975.

 Mr. Mitchell disregards the Sandia personnel sheets that specify entry of liquid wastes into the MWL:

  • the disposal of 270,000 gallons of reactor waste water (CANM Ex. 5 k), (Mr. Mitchell states 204,000 gallons),
  • the use of 5,000 gallons of water to extinguish a uranium fire in a trench (Ex. 5 k), Note: An entire fire truck was disposed of in Pit 13 on 2/2/65 measuring 1800 Ci of radiation.
  • the filling of a trench with water and transfer of that water to another trench (Ex. 5 k),
  • the inflow of storm water  and annual precipitation of 8 inches a year into pits and trenches for decades
  • Protective berms around the MWL were breached by powerful storms in 2006-07 with pooling of water.  CITATION.  

The poor control of water entering the buried wastes at the classified section of the MWL dump is illustrated by a memorandum dated November 20, 1996 from Sandia staff person Mr. Jerry Peace to DOE staff person Mr. John Gould.  The pertinent excerpt from the memo follows:

    Pit caps in the classified area [of the MWL dump] are in serious need of

repair.  Many concrete caps have collapsed under their own weight

because they were not formed, reinforced, or finished when poured.  

Plywood caps need immediate attention because they are rotting and

slumping into the pits.  These collapsed pit caps act as funnels,

channeling precipitation into buried waste.  

These caps have collapsed because backfilled soils have settled over

time, leaving a void directly beneath the concrete or plywood cap (p.2).  

Source: Defective Groundwater Protection Practices at the Sandia National Laboratories’

Mixed Waste Landfill – The Sandia MWL dump. Section 1.3,

Robert H. Gilkeson, Registered Geologist (January 22, 2011)   


The current Sandia 2014 and 2015 analysis of VOC monitoring data reveal that VOCs have reached at least 400 ft below ground surface.  CANM Ex 5 j states that Trichlor [Trichloroethylene] and Carbon Tetrachloride were commonly used for decon [decontamination] and cleanup purposes and disposed of in quantities up to 1 cu ft (7.5 gallons per cu ft) at any given time. Seven and one-half (7.5) gallons of TCE are sufficient to contaminate 2.2 billion gallons of water above the MCL drinking water limit.  

 Along with metallic sodium other incompatible/explosive compounds were disposed of in the MWL.  Uranyl Nitrate Hydrated was disposed of in the MWL. (Sheet 9/5/80 – 5 kg).  It represents a severe fire and explosion risk when heated or subjected to shock in contact with oxidizable substances. Uranyl nitrate is an oxidizing and highly toxic compound. When ingested, it causes severe renal insufficiency and acute tubular necrosis and is a lymphocyte mitogen. Target organs include the kidneys, liver, lungs and brain. Uranyl nitrate is important for nuclear reprocessing; it is the compound of uranium that results from dissolving the decladded spent nuclear fuel rods or yellowcake in nitric acid, for further separation and preparation of uranium hexafluoride for isotope separation for preparing of enriched uranium.  Lead Azide that is extremely explosive was also disposed of in the MWL. The 100s of tons of depleted uranium in the MWL is pyrophoric and there have already been uranium fires in the MWL.  

 Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) was disposed of in a quantity of 251 cu yd (50,827 gallons) in the MWL. (CANM Ex 8, pp. J-8 and J-10). This amount of PCB could contaminate trillions of gallons of water alone.  No effort has been made to comply with the Toxic Substances and Control Act (TSCA) regulations for the PCB disposal. These above facts regarding chemical disposal in the MWL and the presence of VOCs 400 ft below ground surface (bgs) prove that there was release of highly toxic chlorinated chemicals from the MWL towards the groundwater.  The risk assessment presented for the Phase 2 RFI claimed that groundwater was an unlikely pathway for contaminant transport in the future.  The fact is that the MWL is already leaking to the groundwater.

These above examples impeach Mr. Mitchell’s testimony and demonstrate the incompetence and incompleteness of his knowledge of operation and management of the MWL.

 Mr. Mitchell describes the future land use designation for the MWL as industrial.  Super Fund sites across the United States were unusable in general until after excavation.  The threat that would be posed by the use of industrial construction equipment digging in metallic sodium and tons of depleted uranium in shallow pits and trenches at the MWL would be an unimaginably dangerous situation.  Rocky Flats, for example, had to be designated as an animal park rather than for industrial use due to potential exposure to humans from radioactive materials.   

Mr. Mitchell’s testimony regarding risk assessment is not based on any valid characterization of the wastes in the MWL.  As an example, U-235 is a long-lived radionuclide that needs to be separated from the environment for 703.8 million years.  The Phase 2 RFI did not contain information about the nuclear reactor meltdown experiments and the Mixed High-Level wastes disposed of in the MWL from those experiments.   Mr. Mitchell ignores the longevity of the MWL mixed wastes as against the need to protect the public from radiation as required by DOE Orders.

Mr. Mitchell’s assessment throughout his testimony regarding public participation opportunities fails to describe:

  • the withholding of extensive information about the nuclear meltdown experiments and MWL disposals of High-level mixed radioactive and hazardous waste from the experiments;
  • the defects in the groundwater monitoring network;
  • the EPA Office of Inspector General report describing a flawed groundwater monitoring network and the denial of public participation;
  • the withholding of the 2006 TechLaw, Inc. report showing the defective construction during negotiations with the public for the Fate and Transport Model.  

Formal comments regarding these matters have been submitted to DOE/Sandia including the DOE Office of Inspector General that plans an audit in October 2015.  The comments have been made in public forums such as the Albuquerque Bernalillo County (ABC) Water Protection Advisory Board and the ABC Water Utility Authority (WUA).  The ABCWUA passed Resolution 15-7 asking Sandia to address the issues of High-level Waste disposal in the MWL.

    In March 2007, Appellant Citizen Action and Registered Geologist Robert Gilkeson filed a complaint with EPA Region 6 alleging that the MWL monitoring well network was defective.  An April 2010 audit costing $273,000 conducted by the EPA OIG found that EPA Region 6 staffers had concerns about the landfill's effect on groundwater and the lack of effective groundwater monitoring at the MWL.  (The OIG Hotline Report).   The Inspector General also found that an Oversight Report of the EPA staff’s MWL concerns was being withheld from the public, thereby limiting public involvement in the corrective measures process.  Region 6 administrators stamped the Oversight Report “Confidential” in a self-serving action to justify withholding it from the public.  The OIG Audit Report, at Page 3, found:

Region 6 withheld information from the public regarding the MWL monitoring wells through ... discontinuation of record keeping, misleading communications, and inappropriate classification.

 EPA Region 6 also produced technical findings for the MWL groundwater monitoring network on August 10, 2007 that was presented by email to the NMED William Moats by Region 6 to avoid production of documentation that the public could obtain regarding the defective groundwater monitoring network. CANM Ex. 1.  EPA Region 6 and the OIG thereafter withheld the oversight Report from Citizen Action and the public, a report that validated Citizen Action’s findings and concerns which EPA Region 6 of had found to be valid., pp.3-4.

The erroneous data from the defective groundwater monitoring network was relied upon in the 2005 Hearing Officer Report adopted by the NMED Secretary in the Final Order.  Earlier reports about the defective groundwater monitoring system were not provided to the Hearing Officer by NMED or DOE/Sandia.

Mr. Mitchell completely ignores the fact that MWL-MW4 is a defective monitoring well.  This was identified in the 1997 NMED Notice of Denial and again by EPA Region 6. The early technical findings of the NMED in its 1997 Notice of Denial and of the August 2007 EPA Groundwater Monitoring Comments fly in the face of Mr. Mitchell’s assertions  about continued use of MWL Monitoring Well MW4.  The 1997 NMED NOD described the failure of MW4 to monitor at the water table to help determine the hydraulic gradient at the MWL. MW4 has been perceived by EPA Region 6 as a well that did not meet its purpose for monitoring at the water table and should be “plugged” because it “posed the risk of creating a direct conduit for contamination from the surface to the aquifer.”  Under the 2004 Consent Order:

Consent Order Section VIII.A.6 (p.63) In the event of a well or piezometer failure, or if a well or piezometer is any way no longer usable for its intended purpose, it must be replaced with an equivalent well or piezometer.  Respondents shall ensure that the well or piezometer will not serve as a conduit for Contaminants to migrate between different zones of saturation.

Mitchell’s argument that high levels of Nickel and Chromium in MW4 are from corrosion in the pump does not consider that radioactive Nickel-63 and Chromium were dumped in the MWL.  The 1998 NMED Notice Of Denial states:

Deficiency #5. Response #46  –  The MWL inventory is not complete.  

Data derived from soil sampling beneath the landfill indicate that nickel is

a possible contaminant from the MWL.  (See Deficiency No. 2).

DOE/SNL must support their position on a technical basis that the

elevated nickel levels detected in groundwater samples from monitor well

MWL-MW1 (and MWL-MW3) are a result of the corrosion of 305 stainless

steel well screen; otherwise, such elevated levels of nickel will be

attributed to a release of contaminants from the landfill [emphasis


Sandia never did support their position for nickel contamination being from corrosion in MW1, MW2 and MW3 on a technical basis.  There are numerous disposal sheets that indicate that Nickel-63 was disposed of in the MWL.  Examples of Nickel-63 disposal:

  • 1/5/65 –5 nickel batteries radioactive
  • 4/23/65 – Nickel-63
  • 5/20/65 – Hazard Nickel-63

 The defectiveness of the new monitoring wells MWL-MW7, -MW8, and –MW9 is described by Gilkeson.  CANM Ex 12.  See Testimony of Dr. Barcelona at ¶19.

The confidential Oversight Report and interviews by OIG staff of the EPA Region 6 staff were obtained in 2014 after a FOIA lawsuit was filed by Citizen Action.  Following is what an EPA Region 6 unidentified staff person told the Inspector General in an October 15, 2008 interview:  [Note: “(b)(6)” as used in the document refers to the redacted individual who is being interviewed].

(b)(6) stated that he did not have any prior connection with the site.  In fact he does not report to (b)(6).  He also stated that Region 6 had its results preconceived.  Region 6 management did not want NMED doing anything wrong.  Therefore, management created a structure to ensure the appropriate outcome would result.  Furthermore, as the writing and draft comments progressed to a final letter, the team was pushed more and more to agree with NMED’s position.  He also stated that the teams’ initial evaluation would have changed the solution at Sandia MWL [meaning the dirt cover would not have been the “selected remedy”.]  NMED pushed extremely hard for EPA Region 6 not to even question the past results or the viability of past test results [regarding groundwater monitoring and sampling].  Finally, he stated that [Citizen Action] got shortchanged by Region 6.

 In May 2005, the NMED Final Order for the dirt cover was approved.  The Final Order called for a subsequent (Fate and Transport Model- F&TM) to analyze the movement of contaminants beneath the dump.  Sandia issued the findings for the computer model in 2005 assuring the public that no contamination would reach the groundwater.  TechLaw, Inc. was asked by NMED to review the computer model for the FT&M.

A 2006 TechLaw, Inc., report titled Technical Review of Appendix E, Probabilistic Performance-Assessment Modeling of the Mixed Waste Landfill at Sandia National Laboratories of the [November 2005] Mixed Waste Landfill Corrective Measures Implementation Plan dated January 31, 2006, (the “TechLaw Report”), revealed numerous deficiencies in the construction and monitoring of the dirt cover and the long-term protection of the groundwater, as well as the computer codes for the fate and transport model.  On October 19, 2007, the New Mexico Environment Department unsuccessfully sued Citizen Action in an effort to withhold the TechLaw Report from Citizen Action which had requested the report in an Inspection of Public Records Act request. TechLaw, Inc. provided its technical report on the Sandia F&TM computer model in January 2006.  The 2006 TechLaw, Inc. document recommended that NMED not accept the computer model and that it was a “Black Box” with unusable computed codes.

Citizen Action (Director Sue Dayton) asked for the TechLaw report in February 2006 before a May 2006 public technical meeting took place.  NMED denied the request.  In May 2006 Citizen Action attended the “technical meeting” with NMED regarding the F&TM with no knowledge of the contents of the TechLaw, Inc. report.  NMED did not reveal the conclusions contained in the 2006 TechLaw, Inc. report. NMED kept the TechLaw report secret from January 2006 until November 2009 by filing a lawsuit against Citizen Action after CA won a favorable decision from the NM Attorney General that the TechLaw, Inc. report was a public record.

The TechLaw report was withheld from the public until late 2009 during the period when the Fate and Transport Model was under consideration and the dirt cover was being constructed.  NMED withheld the TechLaw report from the public because it contained information that cast further doubt on the NMED decision for the dirt cover remedy.  The TechLaw Report identified issues with 1). the incorrect design of the dirt cover and monitoring 2). the poor long term viability of the dirt cover, and 3). the deficiencies in the DOE/Sandia computer model  used for contaminant movement modeling.  The Moats Report and the Responses to Public Comment withheld the information contained in the TechLaw report from the public.  

Details of the inability of the dirt cover to perform adequately for protection of soil and groundwater were ignored.  The TechLaw report described the inability of the dirt cover to provide long-term protection and did not even consider the presence of Mixed High-Level waste and the long-lived radionuclides in the MWL. The information about Mixed High-level Waste was not reported to TechLaw.  

NMED failed to provide either version 1 or version 2 of the DOE/Sandia 2007 F&TM Report to the public for review and comment as required for major documents by the May 26, 2005 Final Order.  The F&TM Report was a major document because it was required by the Final Order.

The Sandia 2005 and 2008 F&TM used well monitoring data that was unreliable and incorrect because of the factors of wrong location, corrosion, use of drilling muds, well screens across different strata, and use of improper purging and sampling.  These problems regarding the defective groundwater monitoring network were described in numerous early regulatory documents, but DOE/Sandia did not consider thatinformation.  

New MWL monitoring wells were required by NMED to be installed at the water table during investigation of the Citizen Action/Gilkeson complaint by EPA Region 6.  Remaining monitoring wells MW4, MW5 and MW6 have failed under the Consent Order for providing reliable water samples but were not ordered for replacement.  Sandia Labs continues to provide data from unreliable monitoring wells in annual ground water monitoring reports to the NMED.  

Similar to NMED withholding of the TechLaw report, NMED withheld EPA Region 6 technical information about the defective groundwater monitoring network during the development of the Fate and Transport Model (F&TM).  On August 10, 2007, NMED William Moats received a report from EPA Region 6 that showed the MWL groundwater monitoring network was defective and required replacement.  CANM Ex 1.  That information was not offered to the public during F&TM discussions and made a part of the record.  Thus, NMED covered up information about defective ground water monitoring and a defective dirt cover that demonstrated the invalidity of the Sandia F&TM.  

Mr. Mitchell (p.16) relies upon the 2006 Moats Evaluation of the MWL groundwater monitoring network for providing reliable and representative sampling data.  In 2006 NMED issued the Moats Evaluation regarding the reliability of groundwater monitoring wells at the Sandia National Laboratories’ Mixed Waste Landfill (MWL).  DOE/Sandia, NMED and Mr. Mitchell are well aware that the Moats Evaluation is worthless junk and is certainly contradicted by the findings of the EPA technical staff of August 2007 that resulted in replacement of four groundwater monitoring wells MWL-BW1, -MW1, -MW2 and -MW3.  Reports from Los Alamos National Laboratory similar to the Moat’s Evaluation were roundly rejected by the National Academy of Sciences and the EPA Kerr Research Laboratory.   Gilkeson, Section 9, et seq.  Gilkeson rejects the Moats report at Section 9.2:

The NMED 2006 Moats Report did not include any field studies.  The report was solely based on an unscientific study of the chemistry of the water samples collected from the four defective monitoring wells MWL-MW2, -MW3, -MW5 and -BW1.  

Prior to the issuance of the November 2006 Moats Report, the EPA Kerr Lab Report issued on February 10, 2006 compared the suitability of using water quality data alone to the futility of trying to determine the temperature of a glass of water by looking at it:  

Relative to addressing the question of whether ground-water samples are

representative of the undisturbed aquifer chemistry, water quality data

alone provide an unreliable indication of whether there is sustained

impact to sediment sorption characteristics. The margin of error of

determining, through measurements of water chemistry, what sediment

minerals exist at any given point in time at a well screen is comparable to

the level of uncertainty in estimating the temperature of a glass of water

solely through visual observations (p. 4).

The EPA Kerr Lab Report of February 10, 2006 stated further:

With respect to screens where bentonite-based additives were used, it is

possible that even trace amounts of residual bentonite that remain

following development may render ground-water samples non-

representative for highly sorbing constituents [Emphasis supplied]. This

situation would be difficult to accurately characterize. Therefore, the

quality of samples for constituents such as isotopes of americium, cerium,

plutonium, and radium obtained from these screens will likely remain

uncertain even after re-development (p.7).

The Moats Evaluation was a “major document” which the public was entitled to review under the Final Order.  No opportunity for review of the Moats Evaluation was offered to the public.  No peer review of the Moats Evaluation was made.

The Moats Evaluation relied on the Sandia fate and transport computer model for contaminant movement beneath the MWL.  Moats knew that the 2006 TechLaw, Inc. report rejected the Sandia computer model as a black box and advised the New Mexico Environment Department not to accept the computer model.  

The Moats evaluation used and relied upon statistical data that was concocted by Moats for Cadmium values.  Moats took the detection limit for cadmium and then divided it by two to give a value for Cadmium being in the MWL dump from 1989 to 1996.  

The Moats Evaluation was used by NMED to reject comments by Citizen Action and Registered Geologist Robert Gilkeson. The comments were part of the RCRA process.   The NMED Response to public comments cite the Moats Evaluation many times.  The Fate and Transport Model by NMED was used numerous times to reject public comments.  

The application for CAC fails to fully disclose fully all relevant facts and contains many misrepresentations by design.  The Sandia objective in hiding information from the public and regulator during prior proceedings up to the present was to achieve the goal of approval of CAC without excavation.  The failure to disclose relevant information and providing incorrect information has included:

  1. Failure to disclose to two WERC panels and the Administrative Hearing Officer in 1994 nuclear reactor meltdown experiments that resulted in the disposal of Mixed High-Level Waste in the MWL as documented by the Radioactive and Toxic Waste Disposal sheets and FOIA memoranda written by Sandia management.  
  2. Failure to disclose to the two WERC panels and the Administrative Hearing Officer in 1994 the defective groundwater monitoring well network that had been identified by the DOE Tiger Team (1991), Moats and  Winn (1993) the EPA region 6 (1994), the 1997 Notice of Denial for the Phase 2 RFI Workplan (1997-98, Dinwiddie).  

Untrue statements and omissions of fact were made to the Administrative Hearing Officer at the December 2004 public hearing to decide upon the remedy.  The representations of NMED and Sandia Labs were that there was no evidence of contamination to the groundwater when the groundwater monitoring network was known to be defective for detection (CANM Ex12):

  • Groundwater flow at the MWL was to the northwest.  NMED records show that Sandia Labs and NMED knew the groundwater flow was to the south-west so that the background monitoring well BW1 and contaminant detection monitoring wells MW1 and MW2 were in the wrong location. MW3 was defective for other reasons.  
  • Sandia incorrectly claims there is no evidence of contamination to the groundwater.  In fact, evidence exists for Nickel, Chromium, Nitrate, Cadmium and probably PCE contamination to the groundwater.


DOE/Sandia/Mr. Mitchell’s do not provide a basis for leaving Mixed High Level Nuclear Waste in the MWL.  Sandia has not provided correct information about the Mixed High-level Waste contained in the MWL.  The MWL is an illegal dump that did not obtain a RCRA permit and is disposing of mixed radioactive and hazardous waste that require deep geologic disposal. The Corrective Action of a dirt cover is not applicable to the MWL because the Mixed High-level Waste is required to be placed a deep geological repository.  The Corrective Action Complete application does not comport with state and federal law and should be denied.  An order for excavation of the MWL should issue.