Action Alert: Protect Vulnerable NM Communities — Halt Planned Tritium Release at LANL
On March 11, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) sent the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a formal notice that the Lab will intentionally release up to some 100,000 curies of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen gas, beginning April 17, 2020.
This massive radioactive venting is due to take place as northern New Mexico begins to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, and places a further burden on some of our most vulnerable and at-risk communities. At the same time DOE is ramping up nuclear weapons production and plans to cut cleanup at LANL nearly in half.
We are asking for your help to call on our Congressional delegation, the EPA, and New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) directors to put an immediate halt and suspension to these planned tritium releases and increase in LANL plutonium pit production.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
- Please sign and share the petition we have created at Change.org by April 4, 2020. Our goal is to get at least 2,500 signatures.
- Print and sign the letter below and mail it to Mr. Kevin Pierard, NMED (address in letter).
- Contact the following elected representatives to express your objection to LANL’s plan:
+ Senator Tom Udall: (202) 224-6621, contact by email
+ Senator Martin Heinrich: (202) 224-5521, contact by email
+ Representative Debra Haaland: (202) 225-6316, contact by email
+ Representative Ben Lujan: (202) 225-6190, contact by email
+ Representative Xochitl Torres Small: (202) 225-2365, contact by email
Suggested message: “I am calling to ask [name of representative] to put an immediate halt and suspension to the planned April tritium releases and increase in plutonium pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory. There must be an informed public process that prioritizes protecting those most vulnerable.”
March 27, 2020
To: Mr. Kevin Pierard, Chief
Hazardous Waste Bureau
New Mexico Environment Department
2905 Rodeo Park Drive East, Building 1
Santa Fe, NM 87505
As friends and allies of Pueblo and land-based Peoples who live downwind and downstream from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), we are extremely concerned about the lab’s intentions to go forward with releasing radioactive tritium vapor in April 2020 — particularly at this time when these communities are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. Now in addition to the disconnect that people are experiencing from social distancing, LANL is inflicting mental harm as families worry about the safety of their loved ones spending time outside.
We call on all of our Congressional delegation, EPA and NMED directors to put an immediate halt and suspension to these planned tritium releases and increase in LANL plutonium pit production for the following reasons:
- Tritium can be a radiation hazard when inhaled or ingested in food or water or absorbed through the skin. Tritium easily bonds with oxygen to form radioactive (or “tritiated”) water that living organisms (including fetuses) can uptake. Tritium can also cross placental boundaries.
- In addition, nearly all atmospherically released tritium gas is rapidly converted into tritiated water and thus can enter the food chain.
- Mid-April is when land-based communities adjacent to LANL are outdoors for longer periods of time preparing their fields and gardens for planting. What will it mean to have cumulative exposure when people consume these crops?
- Because of the school shutdown due to COVID-19, we are all spending more time outdoors. Some of us live 20 minutes away from these planned releases, and now in addition to an already stressful self-quarantine there is added worry about our children and families spending time outside.
There should not be a rush to put our communities in harm’s way when all solutions have not even been discussed. Federal standards for tritium exposure, based on an obsolete model of an adult, white male of European descent, are not protective of land-based people of color, or pregnant families and infants who are more at risk of radioactive toxicity.
We demand an informed public process that prioritizes protecting those most vulnerable. Pueblo and other communities in proximity to LANL (including the city of Española) have been placed in an extremely vulnerable position with COVID-19. With all the unknowns we are currently facing related to COVID-19, we demand a reprieve and halting of the release of radioactive tritium. Our communities deserve to be given every opportunity to have clean air and water, and health and wellness in these challenging times. To go forward with this proposal is a reckless endangerment of people who are already dealing with so many environmental and health challenges.
- LANL Plans to Release Twice the Amount of Tritium Allowed from Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS)
- LANL Set to Release Radioactive Vapors, Santa Fe New Mexican, March 23, 2020
- LANL Plans to Release Up to ~100,000 Curies of Radioactive Gas, press release from Nuclear Watch New Mexico