Demand Transparency Surrounding Nuclear Waste Leak

radioactive waste storage pit

Target: Ernest Moniz, United States Secretary of Energy

Goal: Demand answers regarding the release of nuclear radiation following an underground storage leak

Deep beneath the surface of the New Mexico desert, trouble is brewing. The United States’ first underground nuclear waste storage facility suffered a fire that temporarily shut down operations, and just weeks later confirmed that radiation from the site was being released into the air. People in the nearby town of Carlsbad attended a town meeting, demanding answers from the Department of Energy (DOE), which manages the site; but many residents left dissatisfied, and continue to worry that their families are at risk.

Attempting to reassure the public, the DOE insisted that “concentrations remain well below a level of public or environmental hazard.” The prepared statement compared radiation from the leak with that one might get from a normal chest x-ray. Yet according to former nuclear industry executive Arnie Gunderson, the comparison is terribly misleading. Gunderson, who was fired for reporting safety concerns, told news outlet Common Dreams that radiation from the nuclear leak is far more dangerous because it can be inhaled, and, “What you breathe in does not come out.”

Groups of concerned citizens, like indigenous organization Tewa Women United, have long complained about the dangers of transporting and storing nuclear waste near their communities. Some worry that the leak may have been caused by hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” operations, where the ground is broken up under high pressure in order to extract oil and gas. Carlsbad borders some of the country’s most heavily fracked lands.

Demand answers for the people of Carlsbad. Tell the DOE it must be completely transparent in its handing of this precarious situation.


Dear Secretary Moniz,

With the high-profile nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan still making news, Americans have every reason to be worried about the safety of radioactive waste stored near their communities. A mysterious leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico has residents in nearby Carlsbad concerned, and many worry that the DOE is withholding information about the crisis.

As often happens when the safety of nuclear waste is brought into question, the DOE responded by assuring citizens that radiation from the leak is no more dangerous than a typical chest x-ray. This is misleading, given the fact that airborne, particulate radiation can and will deposit on lung tissue and cause ongoing damage to vital cells.

As New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn recently said of the leak, “Events like this simply should never occur.” The people of Carlsbad deserve honesty, and complete transparency from the DOE. I must insist that your agency commit to sharing all information directly with the public, and end its practice of comparing radioactive apples and oranges in an effort to provide false reassurance.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Federal Government of the United States via Wikimedia

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