New Mexico Lawmakers Want More Money For Nuclear Waste Cleanup

By Andrea Salazar

Times may be tough but nuclear waste is no area to skimp on.

That’s what Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) are arguing as Congress begins appropriating spending for the 2012 fiscal year budget.

In a letter to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the New Mexico duo urged for more funding for New Mexico’s Water Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) “fence-to-fence” cleanup.
“The senators acknowledge the constraints of the current budget climate and that things are very difficult right now,” said Udall spokeswoman Marissa Padilla. “But what Sen. Udall and Sen. Bingaman are saying is that these are, essentially, two top priorities for New Mexico. They have great importance to the country, and it’s important that they’re properly funded.”
Regarding LANL, waste in the area affects the local community greatly because it affects their drinking water, Padilla said. However, it also has an impact on the country because WIPP receives waste shipments from around the country.
The senators are asking for an increase of $30 million over last year’s funding for WIPP and a budget of $358 million for LANL’s cleanup efforts. They cited safety and a need to comply with the Department of Energy’s consent order to clean up LANL by 2015 as reasons for the increased budgets.
“The importance of removing TRU (transuranic) waste from the site was clearly highlighted this summer when the massive Las Conchas forest fire threatened various laboratory facilities,” the senators wrote in their letter to the subcommittee.
Neither Feinstein nor Alexander could be reached for comment.

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