Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Hears From NNMCAB And RCLC At Albuquerque Hearing


Eric Vasquez, executive director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, far left, Los Alamos member of the Northern New Mexico Citizen’s Advisory Board Robert Hull, center, and former state representative John Heaton, who is chairman of the Carlsbad Mayor’s Nuclear Task Force chat during the intermission at Thursday’s public hearing of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board in Albuquerque. Photo by Maire O’Neill/


Northern New Mexico Citizen’s Advisory Board and the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities were represented Thursday evening at a public hearing held by the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

The goal of the hearing was to gather additional information from the four field offices regarding DNFSB interfaces and access to information, facilities and personnel. Also, some 90 minutes of the hearing was devoted to public comment with 20 speakers pre-registered to address the Board.

NNMCAB chair Dr. Stanley Riveles said he was there to present and represent the recommendation of his board. Los Alamos NNMCAB member Robert Hull was also present.

“Our recommendation is to suspend implementation of Order 140.1 pending clarification of how that Order will be implemented at (Los Alamos National Laboratory Environmental Management) sites and how such implementation may differ from previous practice,” Riveles told the Board.

Riveles said it is the NNMCAB’s view that the suspension of the Order is not “overtaken by events” and that in the Board’s three hearings “there has not been sufficient clarification of the implementation of that Order and of the inconsistencies between the language of the Order and requirements of the law”.

“Our Citizens Advisory Board is an official (Federal Advisory Committee Act) board, that is, we are chartered by the Department of Energy to provide advice and recommendations. We have two dozen members on our board representing all of our Northern New Mexico community including the Pueblos and citizens all the way from Las Vegas in Northern New Mexico to Albuquerque. We think that despite the discussions here today that many of the key issues that are of interest to New Mexicans have not been answered – in particular for example the question of the status of workers on the sites in the various categories of workers that might be excluded from the purview of the safety board. The status for example of staff and whistleblowers is of concern,” he said.

Riveles said that in particular the question of Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad is a binary question as to whether it is or is not subject to DNFSB oversight?

“Our representatives, Sen. (Martin) Heinrich and Sen. (Tom) Udall have been strongly supportive of the Lab. They have been also consistent in being very skeptical about the effect of this Order. They have worked hard to get the Order suspended. They did not succeed in the Congress but we do not believe that it is right for this order to stand when so many of the provisions of the Order have not been clarified,” he said. “Let me end by saying that I believe along with some other members of the board that it is a question of public credibility and I want to read you what we said in our recommendation: ‘The disagreement about implementation of the law among executive agencies, as is currently the case, jeopardizes the health and safety of the public. It is not merely a bureaucratic problem. By fostering the perception of organizational conflict it undermines public credibility’”.

Eric Vasquez, executive director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities said he was going to read a prepared statement on behalf of his board members. He thanked the DNFSB for being in Albuquerque and the New Mexico Congressional delegation for making the hearing happen, that they really appreciated the action being on site for this this important discussion.

Although Vasquez indicated that he was speaking on behalf of the RCLC board and communities, the DOE Order does not appear to have been discussed by the RCLC board in advance. RCLC Chair Henry Roybal confirmed Saturday that he was unaware that Vasquez would be speaking on behalf of the RCLC. Espanola Mayor Javier, a member of the RCLC board, said he did not know anything about it the statement.

“Members of the RCLC Board, who all serve as elected leaders in their respective communities, expressed uncertainty over the implications of Order 140.1 on the ability of the DNFSB to maintain effective oversight and review of DOE facilities. In particular, the RCLC board members are uncertain about the possible loss of on-site access and oversight of NNSA facilities near our communities. The RCLC understands that at the November 28 meeting DOE stated that DNFSB would still have access to sites. Yet the language of the order as discussed earlier and tonight in the panel  implies that any such access could be constricted by DOE, NNSA and other entities’ definition of risk and restriction of access to certain sites,” Vasquez told the DNFSB.

“Members of the RCLC request that any rewrite of this order include clarification to ensure DNFSB maintains oversight authority at these sites, as the activities at these sites can directly affect our communities,” he told the DNFSB. “In addition, the RCLC board members have expressed concerns over the proposed restrictions of access to pre-decisional information, as this information may include issues that are pertinent to our neighboring communities around LANL. Such restrictions could make it impossible for the DNFSB to provide input into DOE decisions that directly affect our citizens’ lives. RCLC board members ask for clarification on whether this provision changes the DNFSB’s authority to access the information it needs to fulfill its oversight mission.”