A letter from 120 activist groups and citizens has prompted the state’s two U.S. senators to ask federal agencies to give the public more time to comment on possible environmental effects of pit production at Los Alamos Laboratory.
U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich wrote to the National Nuclear Security Administration on Wednesday, urging it to extend the public comment period to June 19 on its environmental study of the lab’s future production.
They cited challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis and referred to a letter they received from activists who had asked for the June 19 extension.
“We continue to believe that providing the public ample opportunity to comment on environmental documents … provides an invaluable source of expertise to NNSA’s decision-makers, enhances transparency and ensures accountability,” the senators wrote. “We respectfully request that you give careful consideration to extending the public comment period.”
“The coronavirus pandemic demonstrates why we should get cleanup done once and for all,” said Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “What we do as humans ebbs and flows with history, but the radioactive and toxic wastes that we leave behind last longer than our recorded history. We should be acting now.”
The U.S. government’s efforts to clean up Cold War-era waste from nuclear research and bomb making at federal sites around the country has lumbered along for decades, often at a pace that watchdogs and other critics say threatens public health and the environment.
Now, fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic is resulting in more challenges as the nation’s only underground repository for nuclear waste finished ramping down operations Wednesday to keep workers safe.
Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said he doubted the lab has the “expertise and competence” to produce 80 plutonium pits, “but they’re going to eat up taxpayers’ money.” Coghlan said he’s also concerned about defense leaders refusing to use the thousands of pits stockpiled during the Cold War and instead favoring new, heavily modified pits. That raises the question of whether the Pentagon might resume nuclear testing on these untried cores instead of computer simulations.
Los Alamos National Laboratory should be able to produce 80 plutonium pits to meet surges in demand, not just the official goal of 30 pits a year, according to a proposed update to the lab’s last sitewide analysis.
Defense plans call for the lab to produce 30 pits — the grapefruit-sized explosive centers in nuclear warheads — in 2026 and the Savannah River Site to manufacture 50 in 2030.
“NNSA [is] shutting the public out, while steamrolling exorbitantly expensive expanded pit production…There is a clear need for a nationwide programmatic environmental impact statement to justify or not expanded plutonium pit production, followed by a new site-wide environmental impact statement for Los Alamos,” — Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico
SANTA FE – The National Nuclear Security Administration on Tuesday released its draft Supplement Analysis to the 2008 Site-wide Environmental Impact Statement for Los Alamos National Laboratory, concluding that it doesn’t have to complete an environmental impact statement.
The study examines whether environmental analysis for expanded plutonium pit production at LANL should be required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
“Based on analysis in this SA, NNSA preliminarily concludes that no further National Environmental Policy Act documentation for LANL at a site-specific level is required,” the document says. “However, NNSA will consider comments on this draft SA prior to publishing a final SA.”
“The proposed $3.1 billion increase for weapons is simply sprinting toward failure, and Congress should right-size NNSA’s workload to match what the complex can realistically do,” – Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio
WASHINGTON — Members of Congress used a hearing Tuesday to question whether the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous arm of the Department of Energy that handles development of nuclear warheads, can spend an almost 20 percent funding increase requested by the Trump administration.
“I can’t understand why this administration does not value cleanup and would risk breaking the legal commitments [the Department of Energy] has made to the state of New Mexico with budget numbers like that,” Heinrich said. “Why is the cleanup number so abysmal in this budget?”
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich fired tough questions and caustic comments at Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette on Tuesday over the proposed $100 million cut in Los Alamos National Laboratory’s cleanup program for radioactive waste it produced during the Manhattan Project and Cold War.
Documents & Resources
The Corrective Measures Evaluation Report for Material Disposal Area G, Consolidated Unit 54-013(b)-99, at Technical Area 54, Revision 3 was released in September 2011. It’s document numbers are ERID-206324, LA-UR-11-4910, and EP2011-0284. This is the document where LANL states its preference to leave the one million cubic meters of radioactive and hazardous waste buried in place at the Lab at Area G.
The full document is available at LANL’s Electronic Reading Room site (download doc)
WARNING It is 153MB! (If you have trouble downloading the full document from the LANL site, which is often the case, please get in touch with us at email@example.com
To help make things a bit more accessible and manageable, NukeWatch is providing outtakes from the Area G Corrective Measures Evaluation Report:
Nuclear fallout: $15.5 billion in compensation and counting
They built our atomic bombs; now they’re dying of cancer
By Jamie Grey and Lee Zurik | November 12, 2018 at 1:00 PM EST – Updated November 12 at 10:54 AM
LOS ALAMOS, NEW MEXICO (InvestigateTV) – Clear, plastic water bottles, with the caps all slightly twisted open, fill a small refrigerator under Gilbert Mondragon’s kitchen counter. The lids all loosened by his 4- and 6-year old daughters because, at just 38, Mondragon suffers from limited mobility and strength. He blames his conditions on years of exposure to chemicals and radiation at the facility that produced the world’s first atomic bomb: Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Gilbert Mondragon, 38, pulls the cap off a plastic water bottle that had been twisted open by his young daughters. He hasn’t the strength for those simple tasks anymore and blames his 20-year career at the Los Alamos National Lab. He quit this year because of his serious lung issues, which he suspects were caused by exposures at the nuclear facility.
Mondragon is hardly alone in his thinking; there are thousands more nuclear weapons workers who are sick or dead. The government too recognizes that workers have been harmed; the Department of Labor administers programs to compensate “the men and women who sacrificed so much for our country’s national security.”
But InvestigateTV found workers with medical issues struggling to get compensated from a program that has ballooned ten times original cost estimates. More than 6,000 workers from Los Alamos alone have filed to get money for their medical problems, with around 53 percent of claims approved.
This is the list of extensions to requirements of the Consent Order requested by LANL and approved or denied by the NM Environment Department.