The Faces Of Neighborhoods At Risk – Anniversary Of 2014 Valentine’s Day Explosion At WIPP


It happened in 2014 on the most infamous Valentine’s Day in New Mexico.  A drum holding hazardous chemicals and radioactive waste exploded inside WIPP, contaminating the underground panels, reaching the surface, closing WIPP for years, and costing billions to reopen.  It could have happened on the route as the truck passed local neighborhoods, schools, and businesses. 

People who live in the many neighborhoods along the WIPP route are here today. Each person holds a Valentine rose labeled with the name of their neighborhood. They are here to commemorate the anniversary of the Valentine Day explosion at WIPP, which symbolizes the risk those living along the route feel.

The waste on the roads going to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is nuclear weapons’ waste.  The risk that concerns the neighborhoods along the transport route is an accidental release of powdered plutonium, because 1) inhaled powdered plutonium causes cancer 100% of the time,[1] and 2) powdered plutonium is almost impossible to clean up if released over buildings and land, according to Sandia National Labs.[2]

The original WIPP mission was risky, as the explosion that happened after less than 15 years of  operation at WIPP, demonstrates. But it seemed manageable because it had limits. 

The new expanded WIPP mission is much riskier, because it increases the amount of time for  operating WIPP, amount of waste, number of shipments, distance of transport, and danger of the  waste. By making the project so vast and complex, it is only a matter of time before human error  factors in.  

It’s important that the public and the Governor see the faces of the neighborhoods DOE has  chosen to put at risk. Understanding risk shows us we won’t know exactly when or where an  accident will occur; only that it will occur and that it will be catastrophic to that particular  neighborhood. 

“The legal and social promises are still in place that the Department of Energy (DOE) made with  New Mexico and expanding WIPP will break every one of those promises,” said Roger Taylor, of  Galisteo. 

“The message we send to the Governor thanks her for supporting our petition last year, in which  the public asked for her help,” said Cynthia Weehler of Eldorado. “On this anniversary that  symbolizes risk, our message is, ‘Governor, stand fast and say no to the federal agencies  requesting to change WIPP’s mission in its new permit application.’” 

The public is encouraged to learn more about this issue by contacting 

[1] Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

[2] Site Restoration: Estimation of Attributable Costs from Plutonium-Dispersal Accidents, Sandia National Laboratories, 1996, SAND96-0957;