Weekend News Roundup: Feds Say It Could Take 2 Years To Seal Nuke Dump

May 30, 2014

Feds Say It Could Take 2 Years To Seal Nuke DumpThe Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Energy says it could take two years or more to meet a state order to seal off potentially dangerous containers at its troubled underground nuclear waste dump.

In a filing with the New Mexico Energy Department on Friday, officials detailed the work and gave broad ranges that indicate it could take a minimum of about 100 work weeks — and possibly twice that long — to secure the rooms at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn ordered federal officials and the contractor that runs the nuclear dump to submit the plans for permanently sealing the two underground rooms where more than 300 barrels of waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory are stored.

The waste was packed with cat litter to absorb moisture. Officials are investigating whether a switch from inorganic to organic litter is to blame for a chemical reaction with nitrate salts believed to have caused a Feb. 14 leak that contaminated 22 workers and indefinitely shuttered the plant.

Los Alamos Unable To Meet Nuke Waste DeadlineThe Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Energy says it won't be able to meet a June 30 deadline for getting the waste from decades of nuclear bomb-building off Los Alamos National Laboratory's northern New Mexico campus.

In a statement Friday, the department said it has notified the New Mexico Environment Department that it can't move the last of thousands of barrels of waste until officials are sure it is safe to do so.

A canister shipped from Los Alamos to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project has been linked to a radiation release Feb. 14 at the underground repository in southeastern New Mexico. Officials are investigating whether hundreds of other barrels at the New Mexico nuclear dump, Los Alamos and at a West Texas site are at risk.

Albuquerque Creates 'Community Policing Councils'The Associated Press

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has announced the establishment of six community policing councils aimed at building better community-police relationships amid protests.

Berry said Friday the goal of each council is "to engage in candid, detailed and meaningful dialogue" between Albuquerque police and residents over various problems.

He says the councils will be made up of community members who live within the boundaries of each area command.

The move comes as the city is negotiating with the U.S. Justice Department over reforms into Albuquerque police. The Justice Department recently faulted Albuquerque police over its use of force.

David Correia, a police critic and an American Studies professor at the University of New Mexico, says some advocates are upset they weren't consulted in helping draft how the councils would be created.

Grants Police Chief Resigns Amid Criticism The Associated Press

Grants Police Chief Steve Serna has announced he is resigning just days after the city's mayor publicly criticized him over an investigation into a 2010 suspicious death.

Serna resigned Friday after a 26-year career with the Grants Police Department.

He told The Gallup Independent that the failure to solve two deaths had "put a strain on me and the department," but his resignation had nothing to do with the unsolved cases.

Grants Mayor Martin Hicks said last week he felt the investigation into the death of a 27-years-old three and a half years ago was "very shoddy." He faulted the police chief and the chief detective on the case.

Navajo Nation Council OKs $554M Deal To End Suit The Associated Press

The Navajo Nation Council has approved a $554 million agreement to end litigation over the U.S. government's alleged mismanagement of the tribe's trust fund assets.

Officials at the tribal headquarters in Window Rock said Friday that the council voted 13-3 to approve the deal.

Execution of the agreement and payment to the tribe is contingent on final review and approval of the terms by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and the U.S. Departments of Justice, Interior and Treasury.

The tribe originally filed its lawsuit against the federal government in December 2006.

It alleges that the U.S. breached its fiduciary obligations under treaties, executive orders, federal statutes and regulations and contractual documents.

The suit also says the federal government failed to manage, invest and account for tribal trust funds and resources.

Report: Albuquerque Vets Weren't Assigned A Doctor - Albuquerque Journal and The Associated Press

Veterans Affairs records reportedly indicate that numerous patients who needed a primary care physician at the VA medical center in Albuquerque instead were assigned to a medical supervisor who didn't treat patients.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the patients were assigned to the supervisor until they could be assigned to a physician. In the meantime, it appeared that the veterans had a doctor,

According to the Journal, patients with urgent needs were sent to a walk-in clinic, emergency room or squeezed into the schedule of a physician.

The Journal reports that staffers were told last fall that the assignments were a way to manage an influx of patients.

The nation's health care system for veterans is under scrutiny in the wake of revelations about long waits and other problems.

Autopsy: 3 Shots From Police Killed Homeless Man – Russell Contreras, The Associated Press

An autopsy report says a homeless man shot and killed by Albuquerque police — a shooting that sparked a raucous protest where police clashed with protesters — had multiple surgeries and his arm amputated before he died.

The Office of the Medical Investigator on Thursday released the autopsy report of 38-year-old James Boyd and said he died from three gunshot wounds.

The report says one gunshot wound to his upper right arm required surgical amputation of the arm.

Boyd, who suffered from schizophrenia, was shot by officers March 16 following a long standoff in the Sandia foothills. A helmet camera video of the shooting showed Boyd gathering his belongings before officers opened fire.

That shooting sparked widespread calls for Albuquerque police reform, and the U.S. Justice Department then released a scathing review of the agency's use of force.

Democrats Crank Up Spending In Governor's Race Barrey Massey, The Associated Press

Democrats running for governor report spending nearly $876,000 on their campaigns during the last three weeks, with much of that for television and other advertising.

According to campaign finance reports filed Thursday, Santa Fe businessman Alan Webber remains the top Democratic fundraiser in the five-way primary election race.

Webber has spent about $474,600 this month and raised nearly $180,500.

Attorney General Gary King spent nearly $208,000 and raised about $236,000, including a personal loan of $195,400.

Lawrence Rael reported expenditures of nearly $143,000 and raised almost $43,000. Sen. Howie Morales spent about $44,600 and raised $25,000.

Sen. Linda Lopez Spent $6,100 nd raised nearly $12,000.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has cash-on-hand of $4.3 million in her re-election account as of Tuesday. Her campaign raised $403,300 and spent $325,500.