Albion Monitor /News

U.S. Quietly Planning Nuke Waste Dump Just Over Mexican Border

by Diego Cevallos

No Mexican official has ever addressed the issue publicly
(IPS) MEXICO CITY -- U.S. plans for the construction of a nuclear waste dump 20 miles from the Mexican border, in an area which has experienced 64 earthquakes in the past 70 years, are moving right along thanks to the complicity of the Mexican government, Greenpeace protests.

Not only has the administration of President Ernesto Zedillo kept silent on the matter, but Mexico's water and nuclear security commissions released what the coordinator of Greenpeace's Energy Program, Alejandro Calvillo, called a "dubious" report finding nothing wrong with the project and contradicting studies by independent experts.

The state of Texas plans to inaugurate the Sierra Blanca nuclear dump in 1998, in an area where 70 percent of the population is of Mexican origin.

Although accords signed by Mexico and the United States prohibit the construction of installations that pollute the environment within 100 kilometers from the neighboring country's border, and the Mexican Congress has urged both local and U.S. authorities to stop the project, plans have gone forward without any changes, Greenpeace points out.

Calvillo on Friday once more asked local authorities to comment on the matter. Although Greenpeace has been calling on Mexico's Secretariat of the Environment for an official pronouncement on the Sierra Blanca dump for two years, no official has ever addressed the issue publicly.

Canada stopped similar U.S. dump planned in their country
Greenpeace suspects that the governments of Zedillo and Bill Clinton have made a secret arrangement.

According to Radioactive Waste Management Associates (RWMA), a New York-based non-governmental organization, the planned dump site overlies geological faults and water tables, in an area of seismic activity where, furthermore, winds generally blow towards Mexico.

If the deposit is built, the population along the border will be in serious danger, the researchers warn, pointing out that 64 earthquakes have taken place in the Sierra Blanca region in the past 70 years.

But Mexico's National Water Commission maintains that in the area where the dump is to be installed, "all water is retained in the soil and upper levels." If at any time pollutants leaked out, they would go no further than the natural barriers, says the study, which rules out significant risks.

In a document leaked to the press, the national Nuclear Security and Safeguards Commission takes a similar stance, saying "the environmental radiological impact of the project and the dosages for the public, in either normal or accident conditions, are of very low risk."

RWMA, meanwhile, contends that an accident in the area would pose enormous dangers, because the radioactive waste could filter through underground routes to the Rio Grande, which for more than 1200 miles forms the border between Mexico and the United States, and is one of the chief sources of water for some 3.5 million people.

The Sierra Blanca dump would receive waste from nuclear energy plants, hospitals and research centers in Texas, Maine and Vermont.

The dump was initially to be installed along the Canadian border, said Calvillo. But after the Canadian government protested, the Sierra Blanca site was chosen.

By contrast with the Mexican government's silence on the issue, Congress here has sent formal requests to Washington and the Texas state government to stop the project. It also sent a protest to authorities in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, on the U.S. border.

Greenpeace warns that if Mexico fails to act against the dump, within the next six to eight months U.S. authorities will issue a license for its construction.

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Albion Monitor November 16, 1997 (

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