Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce met with Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to discuss the agency's ongoing response to the incident at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, N.M.
The lawmakers together reiterated the message that it is critical for the DOE to be as open and responsive to the Carlsbad community, where residents understandably are concerned about health and safety in the wake of the accident. Additionally, they pressed Moniz for details about DOE's plan to re-enter the facility and for assurances that workers, their families and the community will not be disrupted while the facility is closed.
"As the investigation continues into the accident at WIPP, it's absolutely critical for DOE to be as open and transparent as possible with WIPP personnel and the Carlsbad community," Udall said. "The community understandably has questions about health and safety -- but also about the economic impact if WIPP stays closed for much longer. I repeated to him a point I have made earlier that workers must be taken care of until the mine can be safely re-opened. I also underscored the urgency with which we must have a plan to store waste from Los Alamos before the beginning of the fire season. The deadline to remove waste from the lab is not negotiable. I want to thank Secretary Moniz for his thoughtful responses to our questions, and I look forward to further answers."
"I appreciate that Secretary Moniz understands the gravity of the situation and is devoting personal attention to this. I conveyed the need for the Department of Energy to be more forthcoming with information and responsive to questions that have arisen from the community about the radiation leak at WIPP," Heinrich said. "My top priority throughout this process has been to ensure the health and safety of the community and WIPP personnel. Therefore, it's encouraging that it has been confirmed that it's very unlikely that exposures would represent public health concerns. I remain deeply committed to working with Secretary Moniz and all of the agencies involved as we continue to find answers and seek pragmatic solutions that benefit New Mexico now and in the future."
"Today's meeting was productive," said Pearce. "As in my previous conversation with Secretary Moniz, I stressed the importance of transparency and answers for the local community as we move forward. Safety remains the top priority, and every precaution is being taken to ensure the safety and health of both staff at WIPP and the surrounding communities. We also discussed the future of the facility and its employees, and I emphasized that the people who work hard to make the WIPP project a success must be protected during this interim period. My office will continue to help all constituents receive the assistance they might need and ensure that all New Mexicans' have their questions answered."