Greg Mello, director of a Los Alamos National Laboratory watchdog group, is trying to convince citizens to buy 45,000 cans of food - from peas to pork-n-beans - dressed up to look like drums of nuclear waste and then mail the cans to Gov. Gary Johnson.
The labels will also ask Johnson to convince his staff to shut down Area G, the laboratory's personal nuclear dump where about 45,000 drums of waste are buried each year.
A study several years ago showed so much waste was going to Area G that it contained more than the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the nation's official repository for nuclear waste in southeastern New Mexico, ever will.
The 100-acre site on a mesa top in Los Alamos contains about 10 million cubic feet of low-level radioactive and chemical waste. The dump - with its sprawling white tents that protect unburied waste from the elements - is visible from high-elevation roads as far away as Truchas.
Mello drew a parallel between his campaign and two common bumper stickers - the first asks drivers to "Visualize World Peace." A bumper sticker, apparently created in response, says: "Visualize Whirled Peas."
Mello says the Los Alamos Study Group is taking those messages to heart.
"We have to go a lot farther than visualizing whirled peas," he said. "So as it turns out, we're selling them."
The lab is proposing further expansion of the Area G dump, possibly to accept waste created by a proposed pit-production facility and a
new plutonium facility.
Los Alamos is the national laboratory that is slated to be in charge of producing the nation's pits, the fissioning core of a nuclear bomb, which contain plutonium-239 and toxic metals such as beryllium.
The new facilities could create thousands more pounds of nuclear waste each year, Mello said.
At a press conference Thursday, Mello said his "CAN-paign" is intended to shut down the on-site dump so that Los Alamos lab is forced to pay more attention to how much radioactive waste it generates during its nuclear-weapons work.
Instead, Mello said he hopes the governor and the state environment department force LANL to come up with plans for minimizing their creation of waste before they are allowed to build.
"We want to send the message: No new toys until you clean up your mess," Mello said.
Also, he said, the cans come with information about how much waste the lab generates.
"Not many people know we are dumping that much in Northern New Mexico," he said.
Shari Kulanu, project coordinator for the canned-food campaign, said she is looking for businesses willing to sell the canned "waste" in their stores.
The cans are selling individually for $3 each; in bulk, they can be purchased for $2 each.
The cans each have a space for a stamp; the U.S. Postal Service has confirmed it will mail the cans for $3.50 postage. The study group is asking that the governor eventually turn over the canned food to a food bank.
Diane Kinderwater, Johnson's spokeswoman, did not return a telephone message left Thursday seeking comment on what the governor's office will do with that much canned food.
Copyright 2001 Santa Fe New Mexican