March 30th, 2020

Contact: Alicia Ortega, [email protected]


Pueblos Concerned about Los Alamos National Laboratories

Planned Release of Radioactive Vapors

(Los Alamos, NM) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a partner of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), last year, approved the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL) application to release radioactive vapors into the atmosphere to ventilate several barrels of tritium-tainted waste, a byproduct of nuclear weapons from the Cold War. The recent announcement by LANL to the EPA to plan for ventilation to begin in April 2020 amid the national COVID-19 health emergency has caused significant concern among Pueblo leaders who say they were not provided any notice of opportunity for tribal consultation prior to the decision.

“It’s simply irresponsible for LANL to add yet another stressor to vulnerable and already immunocompromised members of our Pueblos, especially while Pueblo leadership and health experts are working around the clock on efforts to protect our communities from the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The All Pueblo Council of Governors support every Pueblo government in their request for DOE to engage in government-to-government consultation on any possible direct or cumulative health impacts to our communities. Until federal and state officials provide directives deeming in-person meetings safe and our Pueblos are afforded opportunities for consultation to occur, we demand LANL and the EPA halt their planned releases of radioactive gas.”— J. Michael Chavarria, All Pueblo Council of Governors

A news article released by the Santa Fe New Mexican last week indicated LANL plans to ventilate tritium from four waste drums containing roughly 114,000 curies of radiation. According to the article, tritium is known to present various health risks when ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Medical researchers and experts contend, as a radioactive hydrogen isotope, tritium exposure can increase the risk of cancer, damage to tissues, cells and DNA, and potentially cause genetic mutations and birth defects.

“April is one the most active times of the year for our Pueblo communities practicing traditional and cultural responsibilities outside, and it’s also one of the windiest. On top of that, because of school closures more of our younger generations are outside. Releasing even small amounts of radioactive materials is unacceptable as many Pueblo borders are located within 5-miles of LANL and the prevailing winds are directed toward the Pueblos. For LANL to continue with their undertaking is a painful reminder our Pueblos’ history of health impacts associated with the radioactive exposure by the labs, during a time when our communities deserve to feel safe and focus on their health.” – Governor David Toledo, Jemez Pueblo

LANL plans to begin ventilation on April 12th. Citing the EPA’s recent memo granting enforcement discretion for virtually all civil violations of federal environmental laws during the COVID-19 pandemic, other organizations in close proximity to LANL have also requested the New Mexico Environment Department hold a public comment period and a public hearing prior to any planned activity.

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