Wednesday News Roundup: Report Expected On Nuke Dump Doesn't Look Good

Apr 23, 2014

Critical Report Expected On Nuke DumpThe Associated Press

The operators of the federal government's troubled nuclear waste dump are bracing for a scathing report on their response to a radiation release that contaminated 21 workers and shuttered the southeastern New Mexico facility two months ago.

The head of the Department of Energy's Accident Investigation Board is scheduled to present findings on the leak from the Waste Isolation Pilot Project during a weekly community meeting in Carlsbad Thursday evening. And no one expects it to be good.

The leak that sent low levels of radiation into the air around the plant happened nine days after a truck hauling salt underground caught fire on Feb. 5. A series of safety shortcomings were cited by the team that investigated the truck fire. It's unclear if the incidents are related.


NM Offers Help With Uranium Mine Cleanup  The Associated Press

New Mexico is offering to help the Navajo Nation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency figure out how to best use $1 billion to clean up abandoned uranium mines throughout the region.

The money is part of a massive settlement the federal government reached with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. It resolved a legal battle over Tronox Inc., a spin-off of Kerr-McGee, a company that operated dozens of uranium mines in the area, including 21 in New Mexico.

New Mexico officials decided in 2009 not to participate in Tronox's bankruptcy proceedings, leaving the state with no say in how the cleanup funds are to be used.

Gov. Susana Martinez's administration says the state lucked out in that the definition of the sites to be cleaned up is broad enough to include those in northwestern New Mexico.

Arizona Officials Support Wolf AlternativeThe Associated Press

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission is supporting an alternative for managing Mexican gray wolves along the Arizona-New Mexico border.

The commission voted in favor of the alternative during a meeting Tuesday. It says the proposal was developed by 28 cooperating agencies and other stakeholders and will be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for consideration.

The proposal would allow for up to triple the target number of Mexican wolves in the Southwest from the previous goal of 100. Supporters say that would help with developing a self-sustaining population.

The alterative also calls for a major expansion of the area where wolves can be released and expansion of the area where wolves can disperse and establish territories.

Commission Chairman J.W. Harris says the biggest impediment to wolf reintroduction is social tolerance.

Feds Release Rio Grande Forecast - The Associated Press

Federal officials have a plan for managing water in the Middle Rio Grande Valley.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the details of this year's operating plan during a meeting Wednesday in Albuquerque.

The plan calls for keeping the Rio Grande from drying in stretches at least through June 15. There are also plans to release pulses of water from reservoirs upstream to help the endangered silvery minnow during spawning season.

Officials acknowledge water supplies are limited again this year thanks to below average snowpack in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

The latest forecast from the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows spring and summer stream flows in New Mexico will be less than half of average and in some cases less than 25 percent of average.

Feds Schedule Public Meetings On Police Reform - The Associated Press

The U.S. Justice Department has scheduled a series of public meetings to gather comments on possible reforms for the Albuquerque Police Department over its use of force.

The federal agency recently issued a scathing report on what it called excessive force and a culture of abuse and aggression at the Albuquerque Police Department.

The agency also criticized the city's oversight system and limited powers in investigating cases of questionable police conduct.

Albuquerque officers have shot at 38 people since 2010, killing 24, including a woman who was suspected of auto theft earlier this week.

The public meetings will be hosted at community centers in various parts of the city. The first will be Monday evening at Alamosa Community Center in southwest Albuquerque.

Meetings are also scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Heinrich In Western NM For Community Meetings - The Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is traveling to western New Mexico for a series of community meetings.

The New Mexico Democrat is spending Wednesday in Grant County, where he is hosting round table discussions in Silver City on helping small businesses and job seekers. He is also meeting with students at Western New Mexico University to talk about student loan debt and how to make college more affordable.

Later in the afternoon, Heinrich will lead a discussion with members from The Wellness Coalition, a non-profit coalition that works to assess youth needs and service gaps.

Heinrich will end the day at the Silver City Tourism & Visitor Information Center, where he will deliver remarks at the Silver City Gateway Community Continental Divide National Scenic Trail Designation.

Albuquerque School Wins Supercomputing Challenge - The Associated Press

Organizers of the New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge say two high school students from Albuquerque have taken the top prize at this year's competition.

La Cueva High School's Eli Echt-Wilson and Albert Zuo came up with a unique model that simulates the growth of individual tree branches and leaves based on underlying biological processes.

Second place went to Cole Kendrick of Los Alamos High School. He developed a computer model simulating classical explosions in certain stars.

Ian Rankin, Ahmed Muhyi and Sophia Sanchez-Maes from Las Cruces' Young Women in Computing took third place for their microalgae project.

Los Alamos National Laboratory puts on the challenge each year. It's open any New Mexico high school, middle school or elementary school student.

More than 240 students representing 70 teams researched projects this year.