Monday News Roundup: NM Sets Deadlines For Handling Waste At Nuke Dump

Mar 3, 2014

NM Sets Deadlines For Handling Waste At Nuke Dump  The Associated Press

The New Mexico Environment Department is giving the federal government a deadline for dealing with radioactive waste that's sitting above ground at a nuclear dump near Carlsbad.

Dozens of drums and other special containers of waste are being stored in a parking area at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and inside the facility's waste handling building.

From there, the waste is usually taken to its final resting place deep in underground salt beds. But the repository has been closed since early February due to back-to-back accidents, including a radiation release that exposed at least 13 workers.

The Environment Department outlined the deadlines and other requirements for the dump in an administrative order made public Monday.

State officials say the order lets them keep close watch on what's happening.


Report: There Are Cheaper Ways To Produce Plutonium Triggers For Nuclear Weapons - The Santa Fe New Mexican

A new federal report says there may be cheaper ways to produce plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the analysis by the Congressional Research Service says there are other options besides building a new facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory where plutonium pits are produced now.

They include updating LANL’s existing facilities, relocating the production of plutonium pits to one of two other federal labs in California or South Carolina, or building new, smaller facilities.

The National Nuclear Security Administration spent $350 million dollars to design a new large facility at LANL, but then put the project on hold.

Plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons have been produced solely at LANL since 1989. 

Ban On Texting While Driving To Become NM Law - The Associated Press

A proposal to ban texting while driving in New Mexico has become a state law.

Gov. Susana Martinez signed the bill Sunday afternoon while at the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque.

The proposal will prohibit drivers from sending or reading text messages and emails, or making Internet searches from smartphones or other hand-held wireless devices. There would be a $25 fine for a first violation and $50 for subsequent violations.

The bill would make exceptions for situations such as summoning medical or other emergency aid.

Forty-one other states ban texting by all drivers.

New Mexico already prohibits texting for teenage drivers with a learner's or provisional license.

New Mexico Farmers Prep For Irrigation Season - The Associated Press

With the growing season approaching and the drought continuing to bear down on New Mexico, one of the state's major irrigation districts is getting ready to prime its canals.

Monday marks the start of irrigation season in the Middle Rio Grande Valley.

Hydrologist David Gensler says time is needed to charge the irrigation system and ensure all the canals, lateral channels and traditional acequias are running so the district's 11,000 farmers will be able to get water for their crops.

The state's irrigation districts depend heavily on snowpack in the northern mountains and runoff captured during monsoon season.

Snow has been scarce, but irrigation officials around the state say the watering season is looking more promising than in years past thanks to record rainfall that filled reservoirs last fall.

Officials Want Farmington Site Off Pollution List - The Farmington Daily Times

Officials are seeking to have a former landfill east of Farmington removed from the federal government's list of toxic waste sites.

The Farmington Daily Times reports that the 60-acre Lee Acres Landfill is a federal Superfund site on the National Priorities List of polluted sites nationwide.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the landfill was put on the list in 1990 after its lagoons ruptured and hazardous chemicals went into the ground.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which owns the land, will complete its second five-year review of the site this fall.

San Juan County officials say the biggest threat is whether a cap above the buried lagoon will keep surface water from polluting aquifers and contaminating drinking water.

Fire Air Tanker Company Relocates To New Mexico - KRQE-TV

The company that flies the DC-10 aircraft typically used in fighting huge wildfires is now calling New Mexico home.

KRQE-TV reports the manufacturer of the fixed-wing air tanker, has completed its relocation from California to the Albuquerque Sunport.

The move comes as many in New Mexico are concerned about the upcoming fire season.

The air tanker is equipped with what is considered one of the largest external fire retardant tanks, capable of holding 12,000 gallons of water or flame retardant.

Rick Hatton, President and CEO of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, says New Mexico was found to be the most suitable place where the airplane can be worked on outside all year-round.

NM Pecan Harvest Shatters Expectations - The Las Cruces Sun-News

New Mexico pecan growers say they may be seeing their largest crop in years.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports farmers initially estimated the state's winter harvest was 60 million pounds of in-shell pecans.

Growers say a breakdown of how much has been purchased indicates a haul of 75 million pounds.

Farmers and experts say if the figure holds steady, the haul will be the state's largest of the last 10 years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates New Mexico's last big pecan crop was 74 million pounds in 2007.

Growers say the feat is surprising since last year was considered the worst river-water irrigation year in a century.

Several farmers say trees that were planted in the past 15 years are now hitting their stride.