Protect Our Communities From Radioactive Waste: Stop Forever WIPP

On February 14, 2014, one or more drums of radioactive and hazardous waste exploded in the deep underground disposal site of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, NM.

Nine years later, on February 14, 2023, a coalition of individuals and non-government organizations including Tewa Women United joined together for a press conference at the New Mexico State Capitol to raise public awareness of the Valentine’s Day anniversary and the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) expansion plans. Afterwards, they delivered red roses to the Governor’s Office to remind her that she has the tools to protect the People from dangerous radioactive waste.

 Watch the press conference and direct action video here,
with thanks to Diné filmmaker Frost Fowler.

Here are excerpts from comments given at the press conference by Cindy Weehler, of the 285 Alliance:

Today is the anniversary of the most infamous Valentine’s Day in New Mexico’s history.  It happened on February 14, 2014, at the WIPP nuclear weapons’ waste repository.  A drum holding hazardous chemicals and radioactive waste exploded inside WIPP, spewing radiation throughout the underground, 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.  For New Mexicans, Valentine’s Day isn’t just a holiday, it’s a reminder that transporting and handling nuclear waste is a risk.

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 or one nearby and all are on the route…

The original WIPP mission was risky, as the explosion, which happened after only 15 years, demonstrates.  But it felt manageable because it had limits.  The new expanded WIPP mission is much riskier because it no longer has most of those limits.  It increases how long WIPP will operate, the amount of waste, number of shipments, distance of transport, and danger of the waste.  It’s only a matter of time before human error derails a project so vast and complex.

We want the public and the Governor to see the faces – OUR faces – of the people whom DOE has chosen to put at risk.  They’re YOUR faces, too.  

We won’t know exactly when or where an accident will occur; only that, like the space shuttles and the WIPP explosion, it will and that it will be catastrophic for that particular neighborhood….

Our message to the Governor is first, “Thank you for supporting our petition last year, when we asked you for help.” Second, on this day that so perfectly symbolizes risk, is “Governor, stand fast and say no to the federal agencies that want to remove limits on WIPP’s mission in the new permit application.”

Learn more about the movement to Stop Forever WIPP