The federal government should not turn Los Alamos National Laboratory into a hub for making nuclear bomb cores and instead should spend the money to assist the state with education, health care, poverty and climate change impacts, a group of activists and concerned residents said Wednesday at the state Capitol.
The nonprofit Los Alamos Study Group, which supports nuclear disarmament, set up a sound system outside the deserted Roundhouse so critics could express their ire about plans for LANL to produce 30 warhead triggers a year by 2026 without a sitewide environmental study.
The comments, recorded as if the event were a public hearing, will be sent to New Mexico’s congressional delegates, including Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, who support LANL reviving and expanding plutonium pit production, saying it will boost the regional economy and strengthen national security.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates it could spend $13 billion in the next 10 years on LANL’s pit production.
“What it buys us — all those weapons — is a planet of fear,” said Cloud Cliff Bakery owner Willem Malten. “We are not working for peace and security, let alone economic and social development, now.”
Katherine Shera of Santa Fe said funding a 21st-century arms race will divert money from essential services and programs, such as combating climate change.
The U.S. doesn’t need to spend billions of dollars, including at LANL, to modernize its nuclear arsenal, Shera argued. Contrary to the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, the country’s current stockpile is more than sufficient as a military deterrent, she said.
“A new program of investment by the U.S. in its nuclear arsenal will likely restart weapons production and testing by other nuclear powers as well,” Shera said.
The federal government’s priorities are wrong, said Lydia Clark, Los Alamos Study Group’s outreach director.
The government is spending billions of dollars on a new intercontinental ballistic missile instead of using the money to assist those displaced by the COVID-19 crisis, wildfires, hurricanes and floods, Clark said. Money that could go to health care and education is spent on producing more bomb triggers and nuclear waste, she said.
Several speakers bashed the National Nuclear Security Administration’s decision not to conduct a sitewide review of LANL as it gears up to manufacture more plutonium triggers than it ever has. Nuclear officials contend that not enough has changed since LANL’s last sitewide review in 2008 to warrant a full study.
“We do not need to walk into a highly dangerous situation blind,” said Lisa Bowdey of Santa Fe. “We have vast, direct nuclear knowledge that must be brought together with an evaluation of the impact on our land, water, air, communities, transportation rates and economies.”
Benji Bonnet, 26, of Santa Fe denounced federal agencies’ efforts to recruit high school and even middle school students to work in the nuclear industry, calling it “reprehensible.”
Bonnet said the younger generation will carry on the work to fight against nuclear proliferation and hawkish U.S. policies.
“We’ll be part of the new wave of anti-war activism,” Bonnet said. “We are here. We are remembering history. We are trying not to let it repeat.”