Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

Point of Contact

Location: Sante Fe, New Mexico

Website: nuclearactive.org

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Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) was founded in 1988 to address community concerns about the transportation of radioactive, toxic, and hazardous waste through the City of Santa Fe, New Mexico, from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to the proposed Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Since then, CCNS has served as a non-governmental which adheres to environmental justice principles.  CCNS engages in community organizing and media outreach, provides legal expertise, and takes legal action to protect New Mexico communities and environments from the air emission, surface and ground water discharge, and dumping of radioactive, toxic, and hazardous materials by the nuclear weapons industry into the environment. CCNS monitors, challenges, and encourages public participation in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes and federal and state permitting matters involving the Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons facilities in the region, including LANL, WIPP, and Sandia National Laboratories.

Successes

  • 1989 – Preventing the restart of a hazardous waste incinerator at LANL that would have produced dangerous emissions (dioxins and furans) and harmed nearby downwind and downstream communities and environments.  In 1995, the incinerator was finally cancelled as a result of budget cuts to DOE’s waste management program. This work led to the successful CCNS citizens’ suit against DOE for violations of the Clean Air Act radioactive emission requirements at 40 C.F.R. §§ 61.90 – 61.97 (Subpart H) at LANL.   
  • 2006 – In coalition with the diverse and multicultural Communities for Clean Water (CCW), successfully sued the DOE for violations of the Clean Water Act’s stormwater pollution prevention requirements and negotiated the strongest individual stormwater permit in the country for more than 400 LANL dumpsites.  
  • 2017 – New Mexico Court of Appeals orders a previously denied public hearing for a New Mexico groundwater discharge permit for LANL involving the “remediated” hexavalent chromium plume waters in the regional drinking water aquifer. The hearing was held in November 2018, presided over by a disqualified hearing officer, who had a conflict of interest due to accepting a job with DOE at LANL prior to the hearing. CCNS successfully fought for a new public hearing, now scheduled for March 2020.

For a full list of CCNS’s many accomplishments, see the full list below.

Current Projects

  • Opposing 2019 proposals to expand pit production at LANL from 20 to 30 annually – a 50% increase –  through grassroots education and organizing, media outreach, and providing informed public comments. Long-term, encourage transition of LANL’s mission away from nuclear weapons work.
  • Legal action against nuclear facilities
    • November 2019 – Public hearing about a New Mexico draft groundwater discharge permit for the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility at LANL, a key support facility for plutonium pit (triggers for nuclear weapons) manufacturing.  A citizens’ coalition is arguing for regulation by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), not the Clean Water Act. 
    • A 2018 permit modification for WIPP to increase the volume of radioactive and hazardous waste for disposal by 30% is currently before the New Mexico Court of Appeals.  CCNS issues include the discriminatory manner in which the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) handled the public participation process.  
    • In 2010, CCNS challenged and participated in extensive negotiations about the NMED draft 10-year hazardous waste permit renewal for LANL. Challenges to the LANL permit are on-going in federal and state courts.  Permit renewal activities are beginning again in December 2019.
  • Education and Awareness
    • CCNS has broadcast its CCNS News Update since 1988 on local radio stations.  The Update raises awareness of nuclear safety issues locally, statewide, nationally and internationally.  News updates are aired on the local NPR station, posted online, and distributed through social media.  CCNS prepares Action Alerts, including sample public comments for the public to use. 
    • CCNS gives public presentations, makes public comments, and keeps communities and elected officials informed about state and federal legislative processes, and administrative processes.

Opportunities for Collaboration

Resources CCNS can provide to others:

  • Experience with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board with regard to transportation of radioactive and hazardous materials;
  • Experience organizing Count the Nuclear Weapons Money events in collaboration with Move the Nuclear Weapons Money;
  • Experience addressing state and federal regulatory agencies; and
  • Experience encouraging celebration of victories – they are few and far between and it is important to celebrate them!

Resources Needed and other Opportunities for Collaboration

  • Working to identify, train and hire new staff and/or volunteers, especially those with a legal background, to continue operations and advocacy efforts. 
  • Creating a “DOE playbook” to help laypeople understand the systems, language, and processes of DOE, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the nuclear weapons industry and its contractors, and how to interpret and act to successfully oppose their proposals for more nuclear weapons and inadequate cleanup. In addition, the playbook would document successful campaigns and lessons learned. 
  • Collaborating with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and other efforts and organizations working to secure remediation and compensation for victims of nuclear testing and other nuclear exposure. 
  • Providing platforms for impacted communities and individuals in New Mexico to share their stories with decision makers and those in power.

Full List of Successes

  • 1989 – Preventing the restart of a hazardous waste incinerator at LANL that would have produced dangerous emissions (dioxins and furans) and harmed nearby downwind and downstream communities and environments.  In 1995, the incinerator was finally cancelled as a result of budget cuts to DOE’s waste management program.  
  • 1994 – Successfully filed a citizens’ suit against the DOE for violations of the Clean Air Act’s radioactive air emissions requirements (40 CFR §§ 61.90 – 61.97 (“Subpart H)) at LANL.  The settlement resulted in three unique and independent audits of LANL’s compliance with the Clean Air Act, as well as radiation detection equipment, and a grant for radiation education within the University of New Mexico Masters in Public Health program.
  • 2000 – following the largest wildfire in New Mexico history at that time, the Cerro Grande fire, which burned over 7,000 acres at LANL, CCNS organized a conference entitled Fire, Water and the Aftermath:  The Cerro Grande Fire and Its Effect on the Rio Grande Watershed.  Over 400 people participated.  The conference opened the communities’ eyes to the threats of LANL pollution migrating to the Rio Grande, which provides Santa Fe with 40% of its drinking water.
  • Bush II Administration – in collaboration with local, regional, and national NGOs, successfully opposed the proposed Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW), the Reliable Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP), the Modern Pit Facility (MPF), the Complex Transformation (aka The Bombplex), and the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement – Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at LANL.  
  • 2006 – In coalition with the diverse and multi-cultural Communities for Clean Water (CCW), successfully sued the DOE for violations of the Clean Water Act’s stormwater pollution prevention requirements and negotiating the strongest individual stormwater permit in the country for more than 400 LANL sites that have the potential to discharge when it rains or snows.  
  • Since 2010, Joni Arends of CCNS has served on the Steering Committee of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC), which works to ensure the  Downwinders of the July 16, 1945 Trinity atomic test in south central New Mexico in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). In June 2018, Tina Cordova, a TBDC co-founder, testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and in October 2019, she testified before the U.S. Committee on Indian Affairs field hearing in Albuquerque.
  • 2017 – New Mexico Court of Appeals orders a previously denied public hearing for a New Mexico groundwater discharge permit for LANL involving the “remediated” hexavalent chromium plume waters in the regional drinking water aquifer.  The hearing was held in November 2018, presided over by a disqualified hearing officer, who had accepted a job with DOE at LANL prior to the hearing. A new public hearing is scheduled for March 2020. 
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