SUMMARY OF THE TECHNICAL TESTIMONY
PRESENTED AT THE WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT (WIPP)
HAZARDOUS WASTE STORAGE AND DISPOSAL FACILITY PERMIT
HEARINGS UNDER THE NEW MEXICO HAZARDOUS WASTE
February 22 through March 26, 1999
Santa Fe and Carlsbad, New Mexico
By: Deborah Reade
Ms. Reade received a B.A. in Social Science,
University of California, Berkeley 1970. Ms. Reade has been
a student of the WIPP Project for over 19 years. She has
written many booklets, articles, and editorials on WIPP.
Ms. Reade specializes in translating technical information
into language understandable to laypeople.
The Department of Energy (DOE) plans to bury a portion of
the transuranic mixed waste from nuclear weapons production
that is currently stored at nuclear weapons sites around the
country at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), near
Carlsbad, New Mexico. Transuranic mixed waste is
transuranic waste that contains both radioactive and
hazardous components. Transuranic means radioisotopes
heavier than uranium, such as plutonium and americium.
Plutonium-239, the chief transuranic radioactive element in
WIPP waste, has a half-life of 24,000 years and remains
dangerous for 240,000 years.
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has
authority to issue a state permit that will regulate the
disposal of the non-radioactive hazardous materials in the
nuclear weapons wastes. The DOE self-regulates the
radioactive portion of the nuclear weapons waste under the
Atomic Energy Act of 1954.
The DOE and the Westinghouse Electric Company's Waste
Isolation Division (WID) made application to the NMED for a
state permit to manage, store and dispose of transuranic
waste (non-mixed and mixed) at WIPP. The DOE's application
was submitted between May 26, 1995 and November 20, 1997 (a
2 1/2 year period). The NMED determined that the DOE's
application was complete on January 5, 1998.
A draft state WIPP Permit was issued for public comment
on May 15, 1998. The comment period ended on August 14,
On November 13, 1998, the NMED issued a revised draft
WIPP Permit and a Notice of Public Hearing. The Secretary
of the Environment, Peter Maggiore, appointed Jeffrey S.
Gulin as the Hearing Officer. The hearing began on February
22, 1999 in Santa Fe, New Mexico with the presentation of
technical and non-technical (public) testimony. The hearing
continued on March 8, 1999 in Carlsbad, New Mexico for non-
technical testimony only. The hearing returned to Santa Fe
on March 15, 1999, and the technical and non-technical
testimony continued until March 26, 1999.
Non-technical (public) testimony was heard in Santa Fe
during special afternoon and evening sessions. No summary of
the non-technical testimony is included in this technical
Each party made an opening statement and presented
witnesses. Each party was given the option to cross-examine
the witnesses of the other parties and to present rebuttal
witnesses. All witnesses were sworn before giving testimony.
The order of questioning during cross-examination followed the
order of the parties. However, the cross-examination
summaries are organized by subject, not by the order the
testimony was given.