The New Mexico Environment Department has opened the new draft of its plan for cleanup of legacy nuclear waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory to public review and comment. The document would replace the 2005 Consent Order between the US Department of Energy and the state that steered a decade of work, and expired in December. Public comment is open until May 16.

The structure outlined depends on "milestones" set each year, with targets set for the following years, plotting the course for cleanup of hundreds of pieces of infrastructure and tracts of contaminated soil. This "campaign approach," the state has argued, will allow work to be concentrated on geographic areas with pressing need. The town sites, upper Los Alamos Canyon and the chromium plume now found in the regional aquifer top the list.

"The process is really designed to be dynamic, to revise upward or downward based on funding," Kathryn Roberts, resource protection division director for the environment department, said during a presentation to the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board on the order. "During the course of a year, if DOE needs to shift from one campaign to the next because of new risk or higher urgency, this allows for that flexibility."

Ryan Flynn, environment cabinet secretary, argues that the new document will both accelerate progress and enable congressional delegates to secure more funding. This year, the cleanup was allotted $189 million from the federal budget. The goal, Flynn says, is to get "shovels in the dirt. That's what I think the public wants to see us actually do at the site, rather than just pushing papers back and forth."